Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Oh Go On, Let Me Be A Bishop, Please, I'd Be A ******* Good One

© 2012 Muriel Lavender - Play-Mu-Bish
Dearly Beloved, today's sermon is taken from the Fifteenth Book of Christmas, chapter 12, verses 1-24. I wrote it myself. Isn't that the custom? I am a Bishop. 

"1And it came to pass that Joseph of Nazareth did speak unto his wife a third time, saying, O most holy Mother, the cock hath crew thrice already and His Lordship hath not yet arisen from his pit. 2And Mary did consider and reply, Do not forget, Husband, that the Lord is a growing boy and He needeth His sleep. 3And mind thy grammar. 4That may be so, Wife, said Joseph unto Mary, but it changeth not the fact that thou art suffering Him to lie about in bed today of all days. 5Whereupon Mary did flick Joseph about the tunic with a teatowel, saying, Thou wert no doubt the same when thou wert that age. 6Unto this Joseph could make no reply, for he saw that the most Holy Virgin Mother did verily speak the truth. When he could no more endure the waiting, Joseph did again go to Mary and implore of her, Canst thou do nothing to wake Him? 7The hour at which we break our fast approacheth, and my stomach doth begin to believe that, like the sacrificial lamb, my throat hath been cut. 8At this Mary did roll of her eyes unto Heaven and say, 9Sooth, thou shalt not die of hunger, thou great wet blanket, why dost thou not make thyself useful and bring forth the Hoover? 10The Hoover? quoth Joseph. 11Yea, the Hoover, quoth Mary, and verily at that moment did a brilliant light  shine upon the head of Joseph, and the angels did sing in holy harmony. Ah, uttered he, 12I get thy drift. 13And thus it came to pass that Joseph did extract the Hoover from where it lay in a small utility cave, the existence of which was unto him hitherto unknown. And in his joy, Joseph was moved to exclaim, 14Righteously with this Hoover shall I cause the Lord to stir even from his pit, that we may at last gladly and with thanks feast upon our festive victuals and open our presents. 15Well done, Husband, Mary did reply unto him in such a virtuous whisper that he might not hear, 16Art thou not clever. 17And at that moment by the pressing of the button which beareth the Mighty Word, ‘ON’, did Joseph cause the air to be rent by a fearful noise. 18And the fearful noise did continue until the door unto the Lord’s chamber did open, whereupon the Lord Himself did appear, in His pants. At this Joseph did rejoice in his small victory, and enquired of the Lord, 19Jesus, what time dost thou call this? 20And the Lord was most displeased, and He did gnash of His teeth and speak in tongues about it being well unfair, it’s like My birthday and everything. 21And with that did He shuffle into the bathroom, from whence did issue sounds which, though alarming, did fill of His parents’ hearts with hope that the Lord may yet appear a second time before noon.  22And Mary did turn unto Joseph, saying, there you are Husband, 23the Lord doth move in mysterious ways. And Joseph did reply, 24Yea, dear Wife, that He doth."

Here endeth the lesson.

© Muriel Lavender
November 2011

Sunday, 25 November 2012

The Turtle Moves. But Discworld Fans move mountains.

My Grandmother - 'Head Grandma', as she is known, being the Lavender family Matriarch - is 96 and sharp as a tack. She plays Scrabble with her friends once a week. She has travelled the world and made lifelong friends everywhere she has been. These days she's a little bit frail; but if I can be half the woman she is when I am in my Lavender Bag years, I will consider that an achievement. 

Keeping one's brain active and stimulated is believed to be something of a safeguard against Alzheimer's. It's by no means infallible, but it's a reminder that one should, maybe, I don't know, write more poetry and spend less time arsing about on Facebook.  

*and these awesome boots #lovethemsomuch
To the point: I'm sitting here on my sofa, dressed in pyjama top, fishnets and a pair of Deadly is the Female's finest* (click there to see some really nice pants). It's been a crazy weekend - I've given several poetry performances this weekend as part of the 10th anniversary celebrations of the twinning of Ankh-Morpork, the greatest city on the Discworld, with Wincanton in Somerset - home, naturally, of the Discworld Emporium and the finest Hogswatch celebrations you'll see anywhere. It's an overwhelming thing to have been part of - the love, warmth and passion of all those Discworld devotees, who brought together all those other warm and passionate Discworld devotees from around the globe. 

Here are some photos; the key points to note are as follows. In summary, People Are Amazing, and Donate To RICE Here.  

That's it.

1. My friendship with a remarkable young artist, Captain Purky initially brought me to Wincanton and the Discworld folk. You can find out more about the Captain and his work here. Much love, Harry. xxxxx
2. I believe Sir Terry Pratchett himself describes his most dedicated Discworld followers as 'Bloody Loonies'. It's clear that his regard for these Loonies is both warm and mutual. I was privileged to be part of all this inspired lunacy this weekend.
3. Speaking of Sir Terry, he came in during my performance and took a seat. That was a very special moment for me.
4. The generosity (and, it must be said, devoted fandom) of the Discworldians who attended the auction, raised over £2900 for The Research Institute for the Care of Older People.
5. As if giving a poetry performance in front of Terry Pratchett were not enough, I did something else - two other things - that felt pretty special. I donated one of my Edinburgh Fringe posters to the auction, which sold for at least four times more than I thought it would, and the buyer asked if I would sign it. I won't lie: that was a lovely moment. And I got to use a Sharpie pen. The second thing was, a teacher asked me to record a video message for a struggling student of hers who was making some bad decisions and falling in with the wrong people. So somewhere in the UK, I'm going to appear on a whiteboard this week, earnestly advising an unknown young person that yes, poetry is fantastic, but Poetrix Doth Not Live By Verse Alone.   
6. Incidentally, Reaper Man is my favourite. And today, I found a spoon*.
Crowd gathers to watch live video feed from the Town Hall

The original Cohen the Barbarian

C.M.O.T. Dibbler with Elizabeth
Cheery Littlebottom and a female Wizard (obviously - she's wearing trousers)
My Discworld Mummy
The Corset Inspector. Or that's what his badge said.  Hang on...
A very fine couple
The Unseen University Cheerleading Squad
Fion Kelda and Madam Rosie Palm
It's ok, she's wearing the black ribbon. I'm safe
*If you get that, please drop me a line. I'd be really touched.

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Tea and Tits with Dulcie Demure

On Saturday 27 October, WESTWAY CINEMA welcomes the return of LUX DE VILLE. In true Variety style, the show includes beautiful girls, fabulous music, singing, dancing, a little risqué comedy and – Poetry? Yes, Compere for the evening is Frome’s home-grown Poetrix Muriel Lavender, she of the naughty costumes and the even naughtier verse. 
We met with Dulcie Demure, founder of and principal performer at Dulcie Demure's School of Burlesque, to find out more. Over a sophisticated cup and saucer. With our pinkies sticking out.

Dulcie, this is the first Burlesque show at the Westway in over a year. What’s been happening?

‘We’ve been super busy performing at lots of local events, including Lolita Noir’s wonderful Crimson Cabaret event for PAC at Rook Lane last month. We’ve also been shooting a film with a talented Trowbridge artist, plus our usual modelling shoots and promo work for our next show, Lux de Villegrin!’

I heard about Crimson Cabaret - it was a sell-out show! Is Lux de Ville anything like that?
‘Yes – if you loved Crimson, you’ll love Lux-De-Ville: the same decadent styling and cabaret format. But each Burlesque show has a different feel to it. We like to keep the audience on the edge of their seats! And this time, we’re having fun with the Hallowe’en theme, so expect beauty and laughter with a dark-and-naughty twist!’

A dark twist! Sounds intriguing! How dark can you get with glitter and a feather boa, though?
‘Not every Burlesque artiste uses a feather boa!  We have quite a few tricks up our sleeves… but I couldn't possibly give away any secrets – you’ll have to come along to the show to find out just what we have in store for you!’

Tell me about Burlesque - isn't it just girls taking their clothes off?
‘Many people do think Burlesque is just stripping. It’s not. True, classic Burlesque is all about Variety: comedy, dancing and singing, and of course the seductive art of striptease. Because it conjures up the obvious images, it’s often forgotten that a Burlesque show is a highly sophisticated entertainment, carefully woven together in the old-fashioned cabaret style. The performers themselves take great pride and a lot of time and effort designing their routines and beautiful costumes.’
There's more to it than I thought. It's been around a long time, hasn't it?
‘Burlesque as an art form has been around for centuries, making many transitions since the 1400's when it originally meant ‘to make light of a serious subject’. The style we’re familiar with today has its roots in early 20th-century America, We still try to maintain the comic art of Burlesque, which adds to the pleasure of classic striptease.’

And why the Westway? It's a Cinema...
‘The Westway is an independent Cinema which means it has a lovely welcoming atmosphere. The interior fits perfectly with Lux-de-Ville – although the Westway was rebuilt in the 1970s, it somehow has a slightly Art-Deco feel which adds to the Vaudevillean entertainment! The Cinema deserves the support of local people, so as part of the fun we’ll be holding a raffle with gorgeous prizes to raise money for the Go-Digital scheme. For Lux-de-Ville though, it’ll be transformed into a theatre with proper stage and comfy seating! You’ll love it. And it has a fully-licensed bar and snacks available – perfect!’smile

How did you get into the business then, Miss D?
‘I’ve been a dancer for over 20 years. I started Burlesque back in the early 90's when I lived in London, but gave up when I had my daughter.  I then went into Podium dancing and ran a dance school, but my love for vintage clothing and the art of Burlesque just dragged me back!  I set up Dulcie Demure’s School of Burlesque in 2009 and it’s gone from strength to strength: I’ve trained many ladies who are now performing on stage. Not only do I teach and perform myself, I also produce shows like Lux-de-Ville across the southwest and Wales. I meet amazing performers all the time, so as well as my own troupe I get some spectacular headline acts. Wait until you see Constance Peach…’

Gosh. See you on the 27th!

Lux-de-Ville is at Westway Cinema on Saturday 27 October and Saturday 15 December. Headline performers will be different for each show, so check in online to find out more, and save by booking tickets in advance. Visit www.westwaycinema.com or call 01373 467088. Facebook users can look up the Westway Cinema, Dulcie Demure or Muriel Lavender for photos and sneak previews.

Wednesday, 25 July 2012


If you read my last blog entry,you will know why this is important. Look:
Arthur, Found: safe in the arm of his best friend
I was at the Bod Quad, Oxford, watching Hamlet when I received the text message. It read, "Son has found Squirrel Monkey in his blue suitcase". What wild and whirling words are these? - This is the blue suitcase in which the dressing-up clothes are kept, and in which I never thought to look. Son is clearly growing up, moving beyond dressing up; but not, happily, beyond his little mate Arthur the Squirrel Monkey.  

I would like to thank everyone who tweeted and retweeted my blog entry, particularly Scumblebee and Demotivatrix, both of whom made kind suggestions for possible replacements.  

I asked Son if he would like to take Arthur to Grandma's when he visited her this week.  "No," he said straightaway, "I wouldn't want to risk it."

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Saimiri sciureus: he's not common at all

This blog entry has nothing to do with Poetry.  Or Shoes. Or anything glittery.  Or Shakespeare.  Or even Cake. 
(but watch me squeeze Douglas Adams in later)

This is about Squirrel Monkeys. Or one particular squirrel monkey, which is not merely endangered but would appear to be beyond extinct. It is so rare that no photograph of it exists... within the realms of Google, anyway.

Arthur was a Zoological Society of London-branded mini plush squirrel monkey. Arthur belonged to my son, and they were best mates for half a lifetime - that's four years.

The Google search yielded only second-rate Arthurs
Here are some squirrel monkeys. Arthur doesn't look like any of these - not quite. They're all wrong. I cannot show you what Arthur actually looks like, because Arthur has been missing for nearly a year.  I wouldn't bother you with a story which must seem so footling, but tonight my son found this (below) on his bookshelf.  Arthur wasn't lost, back then: it's a birthday invitation from two years ago, featuring another squirrel monkey - which isn't Arthur either - but it makes us think of him.    
This makes us sad
So, tonight, he held the invitation in his hand for a while; then turned it over and, laying it aside, said, "I'm not ready to look at that yet."  

I bought him another squirrel monkey a few months ago.  It wasn't the same.  The ears are wrong.  And the paws.  He's fond of it; but, but, but. Arthur is his Douglas Adams, I conclude: my son is still mourning the loss of someone he wasn't ready to lose. Admittedly, Douglas Adams didn't sit on my pillow or ride in my shopping trolley, but it's the same thing. I'd barely begun to appreciate him, then he'd gone.  And the Zoological Society of London doesn't provide a replacement service. 
That's a spider monkey. Not the same thing
These are what Arthur should look like.  The style, anyway.  That is a spider monkey, which is just wrong.  I can buy one of these, or any of about nine other creatures instead, from the gift shop at London Zoo. No: no good.

I'm blogging this because I have looked at no fewer than 2,087 pictures of plush simians tonight, looking for a new Arthur. I should learn to let go, I suppose.  After all, this will not be my boy's last hurt that Mummy cannot make better. 

Have you seen Arthur? He has a crumpled little face and fits in the palm of your hand. Let us know. We miss him.

Monday, 4 June 2012

Poetrix Regina – All Three Verses

© Captain Purky
Save me from celery
Diets are not for me
Cake must be served
God bless Victoria’s
Secret corselettes and bras:
Long to remain hourglass -
I Love My Curves!

God save my Prada shoes
Long Live my Jimmy Choos
God, I love Shoes
Send me a loyalty
Card for Manolo B
Those Louboutins, O.M.G.,
I Must Have Those Shoes!

Thy choicest gifts in store
On me be pleased to pour
Da, da, dee, dee...
Don’t know the words, la la…
This has now gone too far
Oh look, chaps, there’s the bar
Champagne… for… Me! 

© Muriel Lavender
2 June 2012

Saturday, 19 May 2012


A bit of Globe
I have been meaning to write this for a while… but then, I’ve been meaning to do the ironing and redecorate the bathroom for a while, and I haven’t done either of those.  
But, but, but.
I’ve been to the Theatre.  Yes, I have.  Twice.  And I don’t get out much.  Here are my thoughts about Globe productions, because when one doesn't get out much, one likes to get one's pennyworth for one's penny.

My children (known hereafter as 'The Sprigs') have been to the Globe before.  Aged three months, Little Sprig had to be removed from Much Ado for excessive wriggling; eight-week-old Tiny Sprig slept through Titus in 2006.  Little went again in 2008 to see Romeo and Juliet, and I had to hold him up in my arms for the entire performance. He was riveted.  Here we go – Magic #1: the close connection between Globe audience and Globe actors. I can’t sit at the Globe: despite its generous cushioning, my derrière does not find the benches terribly comfortable.  One can hire padded things to satisfy one’s arse-demands, but I’d much rather stand in the groundlings’ yard: with my chin resting on the edge of the stage, and barely inches of airspace between us, I can see and feel the actors’ performance in a way that I never experience anywhere else.  Here’s Globe actor Geraldine Alexander (pictured), pretty much agreeing: “I think the biggest thing you learn from the Globe… is that there’s no such a thing as a generic “crowd”. The audience is made up of individuals… when I go into another space to work, I pretend I can see faces.”**  
photo: Geraint Lewis

By comparison, my own performance experience is minuscule – but I do truly understand how important it is to be able to see the audience when I’m performing poetry. I need reaction; eye-contact; it’s as though I am showing them a picture, and I want to know they’re seeing it the way it’s meant to be seen.  Stage lights, blinding the actors to the watching audience’s faces!  It now seems ludicrous.  Why pretend they’re not there?
Which leads me on to Magic #2: The Globe is How It Should Be Done.  I don’t have any formal stage training. I don’t know how many critics actually do, but as it doesn’t stop them freely giving their opinions, it needn’t stop me either.  But it’s not difficult to see and hear what works, what works on stage, and the level of dedication necessary to achieve it.  Globe actors enunciate every word perfectly.  It’s such a joy to hear. I don’t mean RP; I ent sayin’ they talk posh or nuffin’.  They simply speak, opening their mouths and letting the sounds out. The Sounds Out.  Big, and Round, Let the Sounds Out.  
King Henry should sound like King Henry - not Prince Harry. That’s what I’m trying to say.  
Groundling Gates
Here’s Geraldine Alexander again: “…be as precise in your relationship with [the audience] as you are with your objectives in the scene.”* I am not surprised at her use of the word, since ‘precise’ is the very one I would use to describe her style.  Having played numerous roles at the Globe, including Ariel (The Tempest) and Tamora, Queen of the Goths (Titus Andronicus), her portrayal of the latter has become my benchmark for good performance. Whenever I see a round-shouldered Lady Macbeth thumping across a stage; a Queen Elizabeth I gobbling her own consonants before they can issue from her mouth; a former soap actress fluffing her line yet again (Yes, Lucy Benjamin, I’m talking to you); a popular TV panel game comedian cocking up the end of his show after his fifth large vodka during it; whenever I see that, I wish for Geraldine and the Globe.  I remember watching her in Titus, when her every movement was sharp, and measured – precise, even – and in character.  She gave more in one tiny flick of her wrist than – than what? Than a whole bucket of tired-out well-known actors, their performances made flabby by a surfeit of television dramas which must, always, be called ‘gritty’. 

THAT poster. Thanks, everyone. XXXX
Let’s go back to MND:  In this production, Puck was played by Fergal McElherron, who also played Balthazar/Potpan in Romeo & Juliet (2008). We have it on DVD, so both Sprigs have probably watched it once a week for a year.  They really do love it (reassuring), and they’re big fans of Fergal’s, so I was desperate to get them along to see him play Puck.  Unfortunately, the (free, standing) tickets were snapped up within minutes of the box office opening… so we mounted a campaign.  A poster went up on Facebook (left). It also went up at the Globe.  Puck himself must have worked some magic because somehow we ended up with enough tickets for me, the two Sprigs, and Grandmama and Grandpapa L too!  My huge and sincere thanks to those involved – you know who you are. 
Small People eat sandwiches
And here are the Sprigs, eating lunch before the performance. As it was a schools’ event, the young cast members came onto the stage to say hello, singing songs and handing out flags to the children (‘T & H’ – for Theseus and Hippolyta’s marriage).  I had a quick chat with strikingly beautiful Emma Pallant (Hippolyta/Titania). She told me how warm her magnificent costume was, a blessing in the cold weather, and how much she enjoyed the uniqueness of playing the Globe. 

And the performance?  MND is a complicated plot, so I didn’t know how successful the outing would be, or whether I would just end up removing a wiggly five-year-old and a bored seven-year-old from the Groundlings’ Yard and sloping off to Pizza Express. I had prepared them a little: we read the storybook together, and watched the film version with Rupert (mental block! had to Google him) Everett and Kevin Kline.
Photo: Ellie Kurtz
Magic #3: Special effects are not required.  Children don’t need over-stimulating.  They get it.  The four beautiful young lovers (Helena, Hermia, Lysander and Demetrius) also played Titania’s Fairies; the Mechanicals (Quince, Flute, Starveling, Snout and Snug) changed dramatically into psychedelic-steampunk fairies with mad-scientist goggles.  The Sprigs seemed to have no problem following the story – which, it must be said, was staged and choreographed so expressively that the tale could almost have been told without words. As soon as Act 1 opened, saucer-eyed Tiny Sprig whispered in my ear: Is that Hermima? Where’s the nother girl? I don’t like the shouty Daddy.  She was hooked.  Little Sprig had a more sophisticated grasp of technique – Oberon’s declaration of “I am invisible” was perfectly sufficient for him.  So much so that when Puck returned to the stage for the final jig, Little asked, Can the others see him now?

Globe, your work here is done.

Star-struck Tiny meets Fergal McElherron
Here is Tiny Sprig with Fergal (Puck), who is sporting a wound to his nose.  We attended Talking Theatre after the performance, where the audience may put questions to some of the cast members and hear what it’s like to put on Shakespeare’s plays in an authentic space.  It’s such a lovely experience: the actors are quite as interested to hear the audience’s responses, as they can be to hear the actors’.  Little wanted to know how Puck managed to climb into an ordinary suitcase and vanish – because it looked like magic from where we were standing. Puck himself explained about the secret trap door underneath – and the bump he’d got on the nose this time when he dived through it!  Fergal had clearly acted as a mentor for some of the younger cast members, and their respect and appreciation was evident in the way they spoke of their experiences in rehearsals.  I wanted to know a secret: Oberon’s costume was trimmed with luxuriant green-black plumage, and by the end a few feathers had drifted around the stage.  When the cast began to return for the final jig, I saw Puck give Hermia’s hand a tiny squeeze as he slipped the string of a balloon to her.  Caught in the string was one of Oberon’s feathers.  I was caught by the sweetly touching gesture, which seemed far too small to be a stage direction.  How came it there?  Again, Puck explained. ‘Did you spot that? I saw one of the feathers lying backstage, so I picked it up and tucked it into the string. I just added that myself, it was a little touch for anyone who noticed.’
The Globe in Cake. Not mine - my one was a bit rubbish

The Wooden ‘O’.  M.G.

A Midsummer Night's Dream

*****My opinion of 'Anne Boleyn', Globe Touring production, May 3, Theatre Royal Bath. The other play I went to see.  This is not the only reason they don’t let me into the Guardian’s Review section
*Dr Jaq Bessell, ‘Shakespeare’s Globe Research Bulletin 18, March 2001: Actor Interviews 2000’. You can download it here. Do – fascinating reading.