Monday, 28 November 2011

If Chocolate Be The Food Of Love...

If over a thousand people spend a day in Chocolate Heaven, the resulting ripples of happiness must surely travel an incalculable distance.

Once again, Frome did what it does best: take a small and quirky idea, nurture and cuddle it, keep it warm and feed it, until it’s a fully-grown eccentric marvel, capable of growing itself, multiplying and strengthening the bonds of community that built it.   
A Fromeagotchi, you might say.  The annual Cobble Wobble is one such; Lipsmacking is another: building on a successful first year, the Cheese and Grain hosted the second Lipsmacking Chocolate Festival on 20 November. 

Here is a small example of what makes Frome so special.  I met Jo Harrington at the Artisan Market on Catherine Hill.  These are held on the first Sunday of every month from about April to October, and all of the town’s finest and shiniest can be found promenading up and down nodding to their acquaintance and exclaiming, “Isn’t this nice?”  It’s practically the Royal Crescent 200 years ago, except with knack-knacks rather than husbands.  On that particular Sunday I was dressed, coincidentally, as a Jane Austen character, to promote the Frome Festival World Record Attempt (in which almost 150 storybook characters gathered for – oh wait, just read the blog entry here).  We got chatting… business cards and chocolate exchanged hands… chocolate quickly scoffed by Little and Tiny Lavender… and before long Jo kindly invited me to judge the Limerick competition for the Lipsmacking Chocolate Festival.  Frome begets more Fromeyness.

Limericks are really hard.  I hadn’t written any since my teens, and suddenly I felt I had to turn out a handful and make it look easy.  I required the assistance of another Frome favourite, the Archangel – for a couple of hours sans Lavender sprigs so I could think.  Oddly, for the third time I found myself writing about Kate Moss.  Why does she keep coming up in my work?  Answers here please, because I really do not know.  On this occasion, the inspiration came from the time Kate outraged the listeners of Woman’s Hour, and a great many more besides, when she apparently declared that “nothing tastes as good as skinny feels” (or did I dream that? Now I’m not sure).  Anyway, if she did, she has clearly never been to a Lipsmacking Chocolate Festival.  I could have said, if she’s right, I’ll eat my hat – but that’s no feat, because my hat for the occasion was entirely made from chocolate by the exceptionally creative and talented Diana from Lick The Spoon.  What a pleasure to wear, and to look at! Almost too good, perhaps, as Diana’s craftsmanship is so extraordinary that few people realised it was actually chocolate.  I can’t wait to wear it again… any celebrity weddings coming up?

Back to the Limericks. I write a lot about the simple pleasures of life, the ones that are available to us normal everyday folk (women especially I suppose, after all, I am one), because I do believe that if we can all find happiness in the small things, we will be far happier than if we can only sigh after the big, unattainable things.  Chocolate is a small pleasure – but a pleasure indeed, whatever Miss Moss may or may not have said. And although you’ll be really glad to know that I have not tried to rhyme ‘Kate’ with ‘Chocolate’, I have written a little something about both of them:

Nothing about you is curvy
Your fangs are a little unnerving
Men like boobs, hips and thighs
Of an adequate size
The blokes who like you are just pervy

This is a ‘Lipsmacking’ high
For the nose and the tongue and the eyes
So jog on, Miss Moss
Our gain is your loss
I’ll keep to my curves and a chocolate pie –

(My technique for which is a dream):
Melt dark chocolate; mix with thick cream;
Let it fill every space
Of a rich pastry case
It’s indulgent in the extreme

I’m a sucker for chocolate éclairs
I’d do things other girls wouldn’t dare
I’d sit on your knee
For a praline or three
For a truffle I’d sit anywhere

I adore a ganache to excess
I’m simply hooked, I must confess
When deprived of my fondant
I grow quite despondent
I’d show you my ankles for less

© Muriel Lavender
November 2011

They were filthier when I wrote them.  I rinsed their mouths out with soap and water though, before performing them in public. Dotted through this blog is a selection of the entries, which I loved, including the Honourable Mentions.  

Before we move on to the winners, here’s a little about some of the gorgeous stalls which caught my eye:

Purky Products
© Purky Products
Specially for the occasion, Purky Products had created the most delicious items of jewellery: highly realistic truffles and caramels to adorn one’s already-scrumptious bosom. Or earlobes. Nom Nom! My favourite was this strawberry fondant with a little nibble out of it. Reminded me of me. Visit Purky’s blog for an honest and touching insight into the life of a talented young craftsman.  

Kernow Chocolate
The Lipsmacking Chocolate Festival served me up all manner of new ways to be naughty, and one of the most fascinating was sea salt chocolate from Kernow Chocolate.  It’s all the rage, I understand, and now I know why: it’s a delicacy truly for the connoisseur – that is, one whose taste buds will be satisfied with a dainty quantity of something special.  If one is, on the other hand, gripped by an urge to scoff down a Mars bar, one would be more satisfied at the Texaco garage, where one may also fulfil one’s need for a Ginster’s slice and a can of Fanta.  And probably a gentlemen’s art pamphlet.  
Crumpet Cupcakes
© Crumpet! Cakes
I honestly did not know whether to eat them or wear them on my head. I would gladly do both.  At the same time.  Hello, Mummy!  

 Great Cake Company
I confess I’m not accustomed to gourmet chocolate – after all, nothing floats my boat quite like a Tunnock’s Tea Cake – but the caramel truffles made by these talented people are, quite simply, gift-wrapped happiness.  A box of them for Christmas would absolutely be all I need. Provided the box was diamond-encrusted, obvs, Darling. 

Chocolates For The Soul
© Chocolates For The Soul
Caroline blessed the Lipsmacking Festival with the launch of her Chakra range of chocolates. I couldn’t say I’d recognise a truly spiritual moment if it marched in playing a trombone, BUT I did experience a noticeable feeling of wellbeing when I sampled Caroline’s ‘visionary violet’ chocolates (pictured). One little taste, and I suddenly felt that ‘…Aaah. Everything’s going to be all right, then.’  Can chocolate heal the world? It’s doubtful, but when it comes to these violet lovelies, I shall Keep Calm And Carry On.

If you have read this far – Congratulations!  Here for you are the winners of the Lipsmacking Limerick competiton, and the proud owners of a Lipsmacking goodie bag each:

"There once was a woman so girlie
Whose hair was lovely and curly
She said 'I want chocs
That look like my locks'
So she now only eats Curly-Wurly"
A blatant attempt to sway the Judge.  Successful, too: well done Matt Sims!

"There was a young fella from Frome
Who didn't think much of perfume
He preferred girls to use
A chocolatey ooze
That he baked every day in his room"
A darkly disturbing tale, the many layers of which reveal too much or too little. A masterful effort by Ed Coate!

"A chocoholic young woman from Frome
Said to her boyfriend, 'Don't give me perfume
Or bouquets or champagne
For chocs, milk, white or plain
Are sure to jump-start this girl's Va-Va-Voom!"
Va-Va-Voom? Don’t ask me, darling, I invented it. Brava to Janet Smith for a verse close to my heart!

I found myself winding up the day sitting on the stage steps, drinking coffee and musing with my new friend Jammer Jamski on how fortunate we are.  Life, we agreed, doesn’t hand out cookies, but that’s okay – because here in Frome, we make our own. Then we invite you in for a nibble, because we’re nice like that.

Monday, 15 August 2011

Let Me Show You Round My (Fringed) Bloomers

I've just returned from Edinburgh, Darlings. Read about it, oh do...

Probably a willy drawn on it by now
Day 1: Wednesday 3 August, 2011
Ms Bee (my manager) and I arrived late in the afternoon at our palatial residence in Joppa.  Joppa is a terribly posh bit – we lived in style during our Edinburgh visit, at the home of some friends of Ms Bee.  Of course, when one resides with well-to-do friends, one can only marvel at the décor… because one is afraid to touch anything.  Being likewise unable to work any of the appliances, we dined off such provisions as we’d brought with us: Snackajacks, tomatoes and champagne.  We’re well classy, us.

Launch Party. Photo: Ian Fox
A quick change into scorching wig and DitF dress, and we were heading for town – in the wrong direction, but on such a cute little train… we adopted Mrs Smiling’s approach and simply stayed on it until it went the other way.  We got to the Laughing Horse launch party at the Counting House very late: all the food was gone and the show was well under way, packed to the rafters and boiling hot.  We were too late to collect my show flyers from the Renroc Café, so I felt rather foolish trying to explain what I do. ‘I read poems in my pants’ – it sounded like a boarding school nightmare.  However, the evening was still a pleasure: I met, among others, Tricity Vogue, Orowa from the theatre production ‘Counting Syllables’ and the delicious Desiree Burch. I was captivated by Tricity’s shockingly saucy act, but then, people who wear ukeleles on their heads are 87% more likely to live life on the edge. I seriously developed the hots for Desiree Burch and her magnificent bosom, so I hoped very much to reconnect with her before my Edinburgh adventure was over.  I wonder if my act would go down well in New York?  Ms Bee needed sustenance so she headed out while I mingled, pointlessly distributing Lady Philadelphia postcards (who knows where they’ll end up?  Who realised that Lady Philadelphia is me?) and enjoyed more performances including Abigoliah Schamaun (pictured), a comedienne who, thanks to Yoga, can do the most unusual things with her legs.
Photo: Ian Fox
Outside, I breathed cool night air and headed for the Pear Tree next door, with its inviting courtyard full of people enjoying themselves.  Time for a glass of wine and possibly my first encounter with an actual Scottish person. His opening gambit was friendly, if unremarkable: ‘nice dress’ and ‘is that yer real hair’. However his follow-up was unmatched: ‘wid ye like tae meet ma friend, he’s anely got one leg’. I immediately accepted, curious to discover which I would be introduced to first: the friend, or the space where his leg should be. It was apparent that my new friend considered he’d acquired quite an interesting companion for the evening, as if Ryan with his one leg were not sufficient, because he introduced me loudly enough for everyone to hear. This turned out to be fortuitous: the next thing I heard was ‘Muriel Lavender? Is that Muriel Lavender?’ Who, I thought, could possibly know me here? It was a tiny glimpse of what actual fame must feel like. There at the next table were Lisa and James of the Renroc Café, my venue for the Fringe Festival.  Another of those ‘it’s all going to be fine’coincidences, just like the Cheap Street moment when the strange old man solemnly presented me with a Steeleye Span CD. Did I not mention that? It’s a good story.
Well, Ms Bee and I spent a charming evening with Bobby, Ryan and Alan.  I seem to recall looking at pictures of each other’s children on our phones. We must have managed to catch the last train home to Joppa, and to alight from it at just the right moment. A great start: Thursday beckoned.

Day 2: Thursday 4 August, 2011
Being completely uninitiated, I decided to do my first day’s flyering in heels. Not massive heels, I reasoned, so I thought I should be fine.  We were underway by about midday, and we’d heard the weather in Edinburgh changes every five minutes, so we equipped ourselves for rain, which it did.  I did not equip myself for shopping: a good thing, as the shoes were irresistible – in a looks-great-in-the-shop-but-kinda-slutty-when-you-get-them-home sort of a way.  So we flyered until about 5pm, by which time we were wide-eyed from hunger and lack of wine.  After almost being refused entry to the Beehive on Grassmarket, another Laughing Horse venue like Renroc – and I admit I was ready to get very indignant indeed – we were finally allowed in (on the basis that I was in performance dress, not fancy dress, one of these absurd hide-behind rules of which I have fallen foul before). We ordered food, a bottle of fizzy plonk and the finest show available. The Beehive delivered on all three. John Scott was our first Fringe show: he was very funny, the usual observational humour but with brutal honesty and pickled onion Monster Munch. John Scott belongs on panel shows: he made Frankie Boyle look like a schoolboy trying to shout ‘c**t’ behind a TV reporter (this just in: Frankie Boyle makes Frankie Boyle look like a schoolboy trying to shout ‘c**t’ behind a TV reporter).
Photo: Lynne Morris
So we made complete asses of ourselves by insisting that poor John come out after the show and say hello to the audience, then we continued our flyering. For the rest of the day, though, we made it no further than Underbelly, where we were flirted into seeing three more shows, before heading for the Gilded Balloon, where we were flirted into seeing yet another show. I’ve heard it said that you should always go to a hairdresser of the opposite sex, because if they don’t want to go to bed with you afterwards, then it’s not a very good haircut.  It seems all my show-seeing decisions were based on either a) how cute the flyerer was, or b) how cute they thought I was, or c) in the case of the girls, how forward they were.  I love the sisterhood: the more I got fondled, the more likely I was to go to their show.  I’m sort of joking.  The key to their persuasive powers was enthusiasm, and it was strongest when the performers themselves were handing out the flyers: a good lesson for me. 
With the hectic pace of it all, I soon found myself in an awkward situation: aside from being unable to keep track of anything we were given – like, free tickets (no sooner did they pass into our hands than we lost them by putting them somewhere safe) – I also needed to keep in touch with the little Lavenders between shows. They weren’t always easy to track down. When they were available, I was often somewhere very noisy. Eventually I headed for the street which was quieter than the cavernous mass that is Underbelly, but I was stopped by a burly steward. You can’t go out onto the road with a drink, he warned. Drinks don’t leave the venue. But I have to – I thought, and realised my situation. Right, I said, you’ve forced me into this, I now have to become the ultimate in slutty mothers, thanks to you. I took a deep breath. “Would you mind holding my glass of wine? I have to go and phone my kids.”
A run-down of the day’s choices:
Bluebeard, a Fairytale for Adults – we met them in the street, they were young and cute and enthusiastic, and they gave us free tickets.  Quirky and somewhat disturbing drama, it lingers in the mind… however the tickets were £9.50 and I would have wanted to see a lot of really excellent free shows to make up for it if I’d paid full price.   
Underbelly, Cowgate. 4th - 28th August @ 6.55pm
Sammy J, ‘Potentially’ – the flyerer was cute, he said the show was really good and he gave us free tickets.  He wasn’t lying, this could actually be my most favouritest show that I saw. We spoke to Sammy J afterwards and he said he’d written it very quickly; if that is the case I would have to conclude the man is a genius. The whole show was wound together seamlessly, raising laughs by connecting the seemingly unconnected and surprising the audience with it at every turn.  I loved it. Sammy is my top pick. 
Underbelly, Cowgate. 14th - 28th August @ 8.30pm
When Women Wee – the girls were outrageous, hyper-enthusiastic, they wanted to come to my show, and they said nice things about my bosom.  I immediately felt as though I wanted to go and get pissed with them. By the end of the show I really did want to go and get pissed with them.  By then, though, we already had tickets for Briefs… ‘When Women Wee’ is a Dirty Stop-Out production performed by five girls and set in a nightclub toilet: a disturbingly accurate portayal of different women with their guard (and their pants) down.  Another highly recommended show.   

Briefs. In briefs
Underbelly, Cowgate. 14th - 28th August @ 11.00pm
Briefs – the flyer girl was pretty and enthusiastic. She liked my corset, so she knew I’d like the show. I did. A lot.  ‘Briefs’ are a Boylesque troupe from Queensland: we caught a preview show so although there were occasional moments where they needed a little polish, the twin spectacles of gorgeous male bodies and breathtaking feats of physical strength and skill more than made up for any minor technical mishaps.  Beautiful and talented, but also touching and human – so that’s all my boxes ticked. 
Gilded Balloon, Teviot. 14th - 29th August @ 12.30am.
    We got back to Lavender HQ at 3am.  Fifteen hours in heels. That’s enough.

    Day 3: Friday 5 August, 2011
    Room for two more on top?
    Pie and Ale: d'ye want it? Aye, Blossom
    My first show day.  Screw the heels: I headed for the Royal Mile in corset, frilly pants and commuter boots.  I quickly gave up feeling stupid sitting on buses in knickers and purple wigs.  We flyered all day, and a fine one it was too – the elements smiled on us for a change. I met a Highlander and a lifelong fantasy got the better of me, this isn’t him but a girl can dream, can’t she?; a crowd of Zombies who provided a unique photo opportunity; and I managed to see ‘Counting Syllables’, which was an outstanding piece of free theatre, neatly presented, with almost as much social discomfort as Abigail’s Party.  Superb.  They kindly came to my show, too, so naturally I love them.  The Highlander also attended, armed to the teeth, and to him I am most grateful for his hearty approval of my Scottish accent in ‘Thane Glorious’.  The venue was completely full – what could be better? – with the audience spilling all the way up the stairs. Maybe it was the poetry, or maybe just the pants.
    Day 4: Saturday 6 August, 2011
    Despite our underpinning knowledge to the contrary, the previous day’s fine weather caught us out.  Lulled into good faith by the sunshine, we were ill-equipped for the downpour. The half-dozen brollies I had brought with me, to ensure I was sartorially co-ordinated at all times, remained in my suitcase with my fetching anorak.  While Ms Bee sought wet-weather solutions, I bravely continued to persuade the soggy masses of tourists that an evening of frisky poetry for ladies was exactly what they needed.  I didn’t do too badly: once again I met a great many wonderful people.  In August, one could fall in love a hundred times in a day on the Royal Mile.  
    Here’s the dear little tiny girl I met, who threw her arms round my legs in a huge hug until I cried. Here too is the uniquely talented Nob Stewart: I was unnerved by his crazy specs, initially, but his humour and warmth won me over.  He even offered to film my show, and I was sorry not to have the chance to thank him for it.  Thank goodness for social media.  One of my favourite EdFringe moments came as I was about to walk into Deacon Brodie’s tavern, out of the freezing cold and pissing rain: I was at a bit of a low ebb when a Frenchman, sheltering likewise from the rain, caught sight of me in my knicks and said, Now, I love Scotland.’
    Having caught the Pick of the Fringe earlier in the day (top picks Marcel Lucontmais oui, monsieur – and ‘The Table’ by Blind Summit Theatre company), we just made it back to the Gilded Balloon for Sweet FA – Fascinating Aida, with their ‘Cheap Flights’ show.  These ladies should be on the GCSE syllabus, if only to remind young people that they didn’t invent the word ‘f**k’, and that women don’t cease to exist after the age of thirty.  Damn it, I should be on the GCSE syllabus for the same reason. 
    © Miramax
    Photo: Hannah Lucy Stone
    The show finished at 7.45pm, and the ensuing mad dash through Tattoo traffic gave me my Velma Kelly moment: jumping out of a cab in the rain and running in for a quick change before taking to the stage (the similarity ended abruptly there, since I had neither murdered my sister nor married my grandpa).  Once again the show was fantastically well attended – this time with even more audience members standing outside listening at the door because the Renroc basement was crammed!  Ms Bee and I stayed once again to see ‘Anything to Declare?’ by the Gramophones (pictured). They did another marvellous performance, competing against the noise and bustle of some lively, some might say rowdy, guests. Beautiful, lovely girls, with a hilarious show which was all rather sweet and hockey-sticks – like the Mitfords but without the disturbing political ideas.

    Day 5: Sunday 7 August, 2011
    I missed you in the whole world
    That’s it – my Edinburgh Fringe debut is over.  Brunch and a walk on the sea front (who knew Edinburgh had a sea front?) watching the happiest spaniel in Scotland dig a hole to be proud of, furiously-wagging tail poking up out of the sand.  Final sweep of immaculate residence. Licked bathroom floor clean, having first washed mouth out with baby wet ones.  Felt very dull, dressed in normal Mummy clothes. I admit it, I enjoyed the attention, Darling. 
    Home to my babies.

    Sunday, 17 July 2011

    Well, I've enjoyed my week... how was yours, Rebekah?

    everyone got involved. Joanne and Amber planning some mischie... on Twitpic Oliver being interviewed as the cheshire cat at @cheeseandgra... on Twitpic the great kids dressed up for the world record attempt at the... on Twitpic

    Enjoy these fabulous pics from - this is what happens when Frome works its magic on a crazy idea.
    I'm at home relaxing after quite a busy week.  The Frome Festival is a world-renowned Arts and Culture celebration in the heart of the West Country. Unfortunately this year I have missed pretty much all of it, by making appearances in eight events in ten days. If you haven't heard about the Frome Festival, click here to find out more, or go here to read lovely Crysse Morrison's blog reviews of various Festival events.  I'm going to tell you all about my week, because a) my blog is called, after all, 'Everyone Listen To Muriel', and b) because I've had a simply super time. Thank you.

    On Thursday 7 July, I performed a poetry set at the FROME FESTIVAL LAUNCH PARTY. You can read a review of the evening on fellow Fromie Richard Greenhalgh's blog. This was a very exciting evening, sharing the billing with Dizzi Dulcimer, Barbara J Hunt, Benji Kirkpatrick, Morales/Watts and Luke Concannon, as well as films from the talented Media Arts students of Frome College.  Compered by the delightful Dave Clark in a fetching top hat, the audience was treated to a multi-talented kick-off event for the 2011 Frome Festival. Dizzi and Barbara's sound was one of tender beauty, and Leander Morales' stage presence was superb. Luke's set entertained everyone late into the night with his infectious rhythm and vocals, and his energetic connection with his audience. What a night! Photo: Crysse Morrison
    On Monday night, I hosted the 2011 Frome Festival Laureate Poetry Slam at the Garden Cafe. Sadly Joel Stickley, the advertised guest poet, couldn't make it - but his place was filled by local star poet Gordon Graft, whose hilarious, captivating verse thrills me every time I hear it. We also heard from Dianne Penny, the delightful Laureate of 2010, and once agin some marvellous contributors in the open-mic slot. A big welcome to Jack Jones, who shared a piece written, in part, right there on the spot: a fresh new talent from whom I hope we'll hear more.  The newly-declared Laureate is David Davies (pictured right): David's words can be seen elsewhere in the frome Festival, alongside the work at Inside Out Artists' Open Studio event, where he created poems inspired by the art. Photos: Crysse Morrison

    On Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday I stayed up far too late reading Bedtime Stories. For Adults. Why does that have to sound filthy? As a matter of fact, it was all thoroughly genteel: I may be a poet, rather than a scholar, and a poet who rather likes dressing up and poncing about at that, but when it comes to Literature I favour the classics.  In our adult lives we don't get to hear stories read aloud to us all that often... so this week I snuggled up in the Barn at The Bell, Buckland Dinham, with a wonderful audience, just to share and enjoy some of my favourites.  On Tuesday we heard an extract from Persuasion, in which Capt. Wentworth was tempted to visit Bath; on Wednesday I lined up some choice snippets from Cold Comfort Farm - a lifelong favourite. Finally on Thursday evening we indulged ourselves with a modern classic: The No.1 Ladies' Detective Agency.  What a pleasure to read aloud and discuss some great books! I feel as though I made some new friends.  Photo: Muriel Lavender

    Friday: Bells and Whistles! Before I head for the Edinburgh Fringe Festival on 5/6 August, I tried out my one-woman show at The Bell@Rode. This warm and friendly country pub-restaurant has recently welcomed David and Sally Smith as the new owners, and it was such a pleasure to perform there that I simply had to bring the whole family to dine the next night. Once again the audience was fantastic, we found plenty to laugh at, and at the end of the evening I treated the adorable chefs to an encore! Goodness, that sounds positively outrageous.  I am sure some lovely pics from this performance will follow, but in the meantime here's one from a previous show featuring my knitted knockers - and a fine pair they are... Photo:Linda Carroll

    By Saturday morning I was beginning to wonder what I had let myself in for... but once again the wonderful people of Frome showed what makes them the very best of folk by miles.  The Great Frome Festival World Record Attempt (pictured above) took place at the Cheese and Grain on Saturday 16 July. We may not have made it into the record books, but I think we did something even better: we set a Frome Festival First by gathering together no fewer than 145 people of all ages dressed as their favourite storybook characters. This wasn't just a unique way to spend a wet Saturday morning - this was history in the making! From my vantage point on the stage at the C&G, I could see how children and mums and dads, grandparents, teenagers and high-spirited book-lovers from all over the region had gone to all kinds of effort to make marvellous costumes, in celebration of books they love. Here's the Mayor of Frome, Nick White, reading us all a story about Pants. Continuing the theme, the smaller participants then cried out for a story about Knickers. Still, I was reassured to see the classics represented, from the Pied Piper to Alice and the Cheshire Cat. There was even a tiny participant in an Enid Blyton-inspired outfit, as well as Miss Marple, Mary Poppins, a magnificent Rapunzel and an adorable little visitor from Kazakhstan - whose mamma rushed home to dress her in a traditional folk-tale costume! Well done Frome, you've done it again. Photos:Fleur Rush

    Once all the fun and games of the morning were over, and I'd finished my interviews with Whitespace and, I headed for Frome Library, where once again I was indulging my passion for storytelling. This time I was reading to youngsters - introducing them, maybe, to Shakespeare. They were fantastic - we chatted about our favourite books, then I read a superb child-friendly version of Macbeth. Child-friendly, in that the language was rich yet accessible: all the gory bits were left in.  Yay!  A great success, and I have enjoyed some delightful and touching emails and messages from some of those who came along. Thank you to all - I really enjoyed reading to you. This picture of the gorgeous Mark Rylance as Hamlet has almost nothing to do with this bit at all, but I just like it.

     That's it from me for now - I look forward to seeing you at my final Festival appearance on Monday night, in 'Later... with FCC'.  Frome: thanks for the inspiration; Edinburgh: here I come!

    Tuesday, 8 March 2011

    International Women's Day

    A year ago today, I attended an Open Mic Poetry evening, the theme of which was International Women’s Day.  I have completely forgotten what I performed there – it might have been the one about Krishnan Guru-Murthy  (one of the ones about Krishnan Guru-Murthy - sigh).  That evening lives in my memory as being filled with the sparkling treasures of the talented poets who shared their work; but also because I wrote this when I got home, bursting with inspiration and bursting for a wee from the latte and the nerves.  My darling son had cried for me when I left the house that evening.  Tonight, he was stung by a wasp.  Tough times.  My precious boy, this is for you.

    The Rock That’s In The Sea

    Because he was crying, I made him a promise
    Although he’d never know I would keep it
    But his cheeks were two rosy oceans
    Into which his love was pouring. ‘Don’t go, Mummy,’
    He murmured, picking the shards of his heart from the carpet
    Don’t go and read poems to those people.’
    The bleeding pieces lay in his hands and I took them
    And put them with mine

    So with verses circling, I read to him first
    But his breath hitched as his bursting lungs fought
    For space in the cage of his chest
    He clung to my body as if to climb back inside
    And for a moment, I wished it – but the cord was cut
    And the story was up, so I left
    Trailing promises of kisses like a wake

                     -  -  -   -   -   -   -   -   -  -  -  -

    Later I kissed Daddy at the door – once, then twice,
    Thinking, Men are not so bad after all
    Upstairs, I thought about Ophelia while my feet
    Sought slippers and I sighed and kept my word. 

    My child, my son, the one I weep to see
    Lay in a patch of light through a green leaf
    His cat reclined, supine, in his arms
    Like a lover; ‘Brow,’ she said, and raised her head,
    But nothing more than an idle paw escaped the embrace
    Of the boy she adored. His upturned face
    Moved with the dream he wove
    And I stroked the motion of his lips
    Thinking, Michelangelo’s got nothing on this
    My selfish heart longed to shake him awake
    Just to prove my promise kept
    But all, and most of all, I wished
    To tumble headlong into his head, and take his hand
    And run and run until we reached the ocean
    Our tears had made

    © Muriel Lavender
    March 2010

    Monday, 28 February 2011

    Sorry Cate

    Muriel Lavender’s Fashion Tips Number 34:

    Never burp the baby on the way to the Awards

    © Muriel Lavender
    February 2011
     picture © Getty Images

    Friday, 28 January 2011


     Muriel Lavender at The Bell, Buckland Dunham, FROME
    Thursday 27 January 2011

    If you noticed any of the ladies in your social circle have been giggling all day for no apparent reason, chances are they spent yesterday evening at The Bell, Buckland Dinham.  Crowds of sophisticated belles of all ages – and one very brave gentleman – packed the Barn to the rafters, to hear Muriel Lavender perform her very first one-woman show. 

    Muriel’s high heels were staggering, even if she wasn’t: immaculately dressed in a leopard-trimmed wiggle dress (courtesy of Deadly Is The Female, where she is Poet-in-Residence), Muriel shared her first collection of poems from a matching leopard-bound volume.  She opened with an hilarious guide to avoiding the most determined of acquaintances, entitled ‘Let’s Not Do Lunch’.  The subject soon turned to Sex, and every lady was soon crying with laughter at the thought that even a Sex Goddess can have too much of a good thing. 
    A tear in the eye turned to a lump in the throat, as Muriel shared a touching poem about the heartache of being a working mother as well as a Poetry Diva – but she quickly swept the audience into gales of laughter again with an outrageously saucy take on the Shipping Forecast.  The twin themes of Sex and Radio 4 continued to intertwine throughout the first half, until the audience were ready for a chance to catch their breath and check their mascara.

    The second half featured a different Muriel – blonde and stripped to her undergarments.  All thoroughly tasteful, of course: a stunning blue corset, lace gloves and frilly bloomers (a rumour soon circulated that Miss Lavender sews her bloomers herself).  With the costume change came a different tone of poetry: letting loose her inner child, Muriel revealed that that inner child was quite the little madam!  You can find out why on The Muriel Channel – available on YouTube now. 
    On a vocal journey of flawless accents which left the audience breathless once again, she took them from Yorkshire, in the form of a Monty Python Boyband sketch; through the Highlands of Scotland in a touching tribute to the One Brave Gentleman present; and in a stunning Cowgirl finale, way out to the Bayou with ‘A.D.V.I.C.E’.  If, indeed, Muriel had any advice to offer by that stage, it was lost in the roars of laughter from a crowd of very satisfied ladies.

    If you haven’t heard Muriel yet, join her mailing list to find out where she’s appearing next.  Or, if you can’t wait to hear her again, BOOK HER to entertain your party – of ladies or gentlemen, for that matter: much as she enjoys poking gentle fun at the menfolk, Muriel’s style is to do so with love, not unkindness.  How refreshing.