Category Archives: other

Mental Health Awareness Week

Twitter will be sympathetic this week, even empathetic.

Tips will be shared, there will be discussions about ‘stigma’ and how in these more enlightened days, mental health issues are treated in the same way as physical ones.

Except that’s still not the case.  Why is that?  Are people frightened that their own minds might be as fragile as those around them?  Are people embarrassed, irritated, inconvenienced?  Do they see it as yet another modern ‘trend’?

I wrote about my own engagement with the black dog recently.  The more of us who do this, who say, ‘this is me’, in just the same way one discusses a broken arm, a dicky heart, or a chest infection, the more we will break through the awkward silence, the suspicion, the blatant disregard of situations which need our help.

This is me.  Get over it.

Follow the #mentalhealthawarenessweek tags on Twitter.  Read around the links and articles which will be shared.  Take a look at the cartoons and photographs.

Don’t say people ‘confess’ to a mental health condition.  Don’t treat them as something shameful – if a colleague of yours is ill, then treat them the same way you would with a physical ailment.  Send them a get well card.  Say you hope they’ll feel better soon.  You know, ‘normal’ stuff.

Because these are ‘normal’ people.  I hope this week makes that clear, and gets the dialogue moving, continuing, and progressing.

mental-health-facts

Lou’s Top Tips:

  • Put yourself first.  Not anyone else.
  • Fight for what is right for you, whether that is in work or personal life.
  • Engage where you feel up to doing so, disengage where you need to.
  • Don’t feel guilty is you can’t do something.  It doesn’t matter.
  • Find something you enjoy, as that will lift you up.
  • Forgive ignorance, however well meant.
  • Be honest.
  • Value yourself.  If you don’t why should anyone else?
  • Go out and listen to the birds sing.
  • Look back to those you loved, and situations which made you happy.
  • Be mindful.  Meditate.
  • If you believe in something, don’t let anyone tell you you’re wrong.
  • Be that inner child again.
  • And finally … life is short.  Don’t waste it.

On black dogs, red mists, and blue Mondays

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Credit: Pixabay

A more personal post …

I’m forty-six years old this year. And all through my life I’ve been hard to get to, hard to define. I was a hard child to understand, says my mother.

At school I had little or no confidence and my friendships tended to be more intense than others. I didn’t make friends easily, I never thrived in a group. I still don’t. I was easy to push around and laugh at.

I struggle with my thoughts and my confidence. Right now I am coping (not always that well!) with anxiety, depression, and frustration. But I have a good job. I have a great husband. I still have my parents. I’m in a good place financially.

It’s never quite ‘right’ but I can’t define why. I feel sometimes that work peers don’t care or respect my professional skills. I sometimes feel like a fish out of water. I wake up in a sweat. I get cramps. I shake. I can’t concentrate or even sometimes find the right word. I forget things. I don’t have the strength to be strong.

So getting out of the door is not easy. Staying engaged and interested in what’s going on around me is not easy. Even getting my point across when I know I have something real and genuine to say is not easy. Not crying is easy because really I can’t but if I could, I would. When you look at yourself and feel like you’re letting yourself down. Letting everyone else down.

I can’t push myself. I’ve done well in my career but right now I don’t feel it. I’ve pushed myself to do presentations, to join committees, to engage in professional spaces. I love nurturing and helping others achieve their potential.

But this black dog has me right now. It will get better, but it hurts me physically as well as messing with my mind. I ache. I feel pain. I feel shattered. I feel weepy. I feel angry. And this time it’s been this way for a year, up and down. Last time it was nearly two. I pushed through that but sometimes you can’t. You can’t. You have to say stop.

So I’m not using this post to complain, just to explain. You can’t stand in my shoes but now and again, just ask me if I’m OK. Send me happy thoughts. Be nice if you see me. Don’t push away my concerns just because they are not yours. I can even make you laugh if you let me (even if I’m churning up inside). Because I sometimes even make myself laugh.

I’m determined. I’ll be back. I’ll be whatever kind of ‘normal’ it is appropriate for me to be. That’s the joy of being unique.

images
Credit: Romp Roll Rockies

I’m still doing my reviews. I’m still reading, watching, enjoying.

Service will resume very shortly!


The Illustrated Vivian Stanshall – book review

Vivian Stanshall was his own peculiar creation.

Born in 1943, and named Victor, this artist, musician and unique personification of the English dandy, free spirit and eccentric, proves hard to pin down.

His widow, Ki Longfellow, has had this book in planning for a long time. Her history. His history. That of friends and collaborators, family and fans, and more.

From the early days as a member of the Bonzo Dog Dada Band – the quirky mix of Studdy drawing and creative canvas – the renamed Vivian excuded a virile and dangerous charm in the most simple of songs. If his Intro was via affectionate spoofs of old 78s, it would be the route to a drunken Viking flame, all consuming much of his legacy in his Muswell Hill flat.

This book is not a biography. Not a memoir. Some of it we’ve seen before (Vivian and Ki’s first date, with him in green with his beard tied with a ribbon, and her, the American who had no clue who he was, regarding him so closely they clicked and understood each other; notes on his solo albums Men Opening Umbrellas Ahead and Teddy Boys Don’t Knit), some is new – the drinking, the chemical experimentation leaving to a broken, brilliant brain and a sensual sensitivity alongside the behaviour one might charitably describe as quirky, but those who lived with it might have felt they were screaming into the void.

The book, which runs to 320 pages of beautiful perfect-bound paperback (and did I say it smells great? Well, it smells great), is, as promised by the title, illustrated, lavishly so with drawings by Ben Wickey, personal photographs from many aspects of Vivian’s life, and writings and paintings by the man himself – he threw his torment and his sense of fun into his art, and wrote love notes to his wife on single sheets of toilet paper – musing while straining?

There’s love on each page. Frustration, too. Loss. Admiration. Regret. It’s a happy book. It’s a sad book. It’s an honest book. There are lyrics – Strange Tongues, Arc of a Diver – which belie the mad and odd image many carry of Stanshall, if they remember him at all. They speak of a perceptive visionary who looked at life and the world so askance that it probably gleamed crystal clear.

Keith Moon, Who drummer, fellow imbiber, partner in frivolities, dead just past thirty. Vivian Stanshall, at thirty out of the Bonzos, creating Sir Henry at Rawlinson End for radio, album, movie. Hubert the hurt who lost his shirt.

Ki opening herself wide open to pull his into that world, sticky, tricky, prickly – the boats, the art, the exploitation, the obsession with cock which made the artist honest and unabashed as addictions removed inhibitions and lifted the Crank into something wider.

Sadness. When Vivian Stanshall died, he was still only young but in that physical shell there was so much strength. That beauty on page 22 (and he was, however curio-bat-crazee that sounds) became the genius, the push me pull me which came apart and reassembled in a shape which couldn’t operate within the normal.

This book is a triumph. It’s pricey for sure, and will cost you the same as a decent West End theatre ticket, or all of the recorded oeuvre of VS put together, but if you are any kind of fan – and it is squarely aimed at the fan – you will feel a connection to the man, or as close as you can get through one woman’s reality of his reality of himself. Or something.


Review of 2017: out and about

My take on the year’s outings:

Jan 2017

A Christmas Carol (Arts). A hit, nicely performed by Simon Callow.

Hedda Gabler (National). A top ten smash, an engrossing version of a favourite play.

She Loves Me (Menier). A hit, with a bouncy score and obligatory Strallen.

Feb 2017

Round the Horne (Richmond). A muddle, with some laughs and a fab Kenneth W but a lot of it felt forced.

Mar 2017

Twelfth Night (National).  Another definite hit, lifting the play to something new and fresh.

Lost With Words (National). Improv with aged thesps, which I loved. It seems to have been overlooked by many.

Honeymoon in Vegas (Palladium). Concert version, which suffered from unsure leads but had moments which did justice to the original film.

Amadeus (National). A play I love, but I disliked this production’s Mozart too much to class this as a highlight.

Shirley Valentine (Richmond). A hit, in a role Jodie Prenger was surely born to play.

An American in Paris (Dominion). I loved it with its dancing and its sweetness. It should have had a longer life.

Apr 2017

The Goat, or Who is Sylvia (Theatre Royal Haymarket). An inventive hit and a black as pitch play.

Carousel (Coliseum). Dreadful leads couldn’t mar the superior material, but when the supporting cast is what you remember, there’s something wrong.

May 2017

42nd Street (Theatre Royal Drury Lane). Opulent hit, nicely done songs and red hot tap.

Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf (Harold Pinter). Sensational and brilliant but Conleth Hill beat Imelda to the acting gold.

Lettice and Lovage (Menier). Quaintly dotty but quietly fun.

Jun 2017

We saw Rainbow with Sweet at the Stone Free Festival, O2 Arena. The former were great, the latter were better than expected.

Penn and Teller (Eventim Apollo Hammersmith). A new show with old favourites and quirks. Always a pleasure.

Jul 2017

Half a Sixpence (Noel Coward). Joyous fun with great songs, even on Charlie Stemp’s week off.

The Tempest (RSC at the Barbican). Video projections and holograms were gimmicky but worth it for SRB.

Aug 2017

IAAF World Championship Athletics with my Sport Personality of the Year, Hero the Hedgehog.

The Mentor (Vaudeville). A strange play, but one I enjoyed.

Sep 2017

Follies (National). Musical of the Year, beautifully done and almost perfectly cast.

Oct 2017

Girl from the North Country (Old Vic). A stunning Dylan score made up for any story deficiencies.

Wings (Young Vic). Loved it, and Juliet Stevenson was terrific in that flying harness, remembering a tricky script.

Heisenberg (Wyndham’s). Two actors at the top of their powers in an engrossing and curious romance of uncertainty.

Nov 2017

Beginning (Dorfman). Another strange romance in real-time, nicely played and well-written.

Big Fish (The Other Palace). Superlative in every way.

And we saw Bananarama, who were far better than expected.

Dec 2017

Glengarry Glen Ross (Playhouse). A mini-hit, but not spectacular.

Moscow State Circus (Ealing Common). It’s got a big top and suspension stunts. What’s not to like?

Mother Goose (Questors Theatre). Fun and boos and don’t look behind you!

We also saw Paul Heaton and Jacqui Abbott – formerly in The Beautiful South – and they were excellent.

Shows missed due to illness this year – Art, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, Grand Mort, Salome, Julius Caesar and Ant & Cleo.


Moscow State Circus (Ealing Common)

I can’t remember the last time I saw a circus.  It’s possible there were animals involved, very likely at the Tower in Blackpool.

Moscow State Circus – which has Russian and Eastern Bloc performers who are largely based in the West – has a lot of the spectacular routines we have become accustomed to through the likes of Cirque du Soleil.

There are clowns, a contortionist, a trapeze artist, an aerial hoop duo, a group of tumblers, a unicyclist, skipping bell boys, and more.  There may be a few cheesy moments and a few clown routines which don’t quite click, but the stunts are clever and often breathtaking.

See some highlights in the photos below.  The Circus continues at Ealing until January 7th, after which ‘Miracles’ tours around Britain.


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