Shimmying Backwards

It’s been a funny old week in London. On Monday, the 2012 Olympic machinery launched the official Olympic countdown clock in Trafalgar Square in London. I’m not a huge fan of the London Olympic logo myself, and I find the shiny, angular, steel construction of the countdown clock to be quite jarring. Especially in a setting such as Trafalgar Square.

(via sports.yahoo.com) The clock was working when they took this photo.

 

The clock was unveiled with much fanfare, to herald 500 days until the opening of the London 2012 Olympics. Last night our news bulletins told us that the clock had had to have some running repairs done to it. The visual they showed was the clock presenting 533 days to go until the opening of the Olympics. The clock had started ticking and running backwards. In the words of the Telegraph reporter, “If only this were a wind up.”

Let’s hope that isn’t any reflection of how the Games will go, although if the clock is anything to go by, I think we might have already missed them.

And, after a really busy day at work today, I blasted my mind into refreshment with a fabulous Zumba class. I haven’t been for a few weeks, so it was great to enjoy the dance and movement again. I tell you what, though: Shakira’s hips might not lie, but mine? I wouldn’t trust them for a minute.

Sunshine signing off for today!

 

Happy Feet

Next to laughter, dance is the best therapy. Every week I spend an hour dancing my troubles away. For that hour my stresses and disappointments and fears and anxieties disappear in the sweat and the swirl of the salsa and the cumbia and the bachata. The Zumba instructor tells us what to do. We just move.

I couldn’t wait for last night’s dance class. I got to the gym early in anticipation of the therapy session ahead. I wasn’t disappointed.

Our instructor taught us some new dances and used some new music. One song made my heart sing and the tears fly out from my eyes. In the stomping and shimmying, I heard the roar of the crowds, I felt the joy of victory and the sweet warmth of sunshine on my shoulder, the colour of the world in flags and smiles and hope and expectation and togetherness and the healing of a nation united. As I twirled I breathed in the excitement of the game and the despair of hopes dashed. And as my hips swayed to a familiar drumbeat, my heart leapt with imagining what it was like to be in my home country during the FIFA Soccer World Cup 2010.

We danced to this:

“Dancing faces you towards Heaven, whichever direction you turn.”
Terri Guillemets

Sunshine signing off for today!

Is All the World a Stage?

So if it’s Thursday, I must be writing about Zumba, right? We had a wonderful class again last night, and, in the midst of our stomping and twirling, I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror. You know what? I look stupid doing jazz hands. Seriously stupid.

I wrote last week about how amazing it is to dance like no-one’s watching. It truly is. I guess that’s the important part: I need to make sure no-one’s watching, and I don’t want to watch myself either. How embarrassing!

I’m not much of a performer, I guess. I love nothing better than to tell a story or share a joke and make people laugh – my heart leaps when I am able to do that. I’m not shy. And I have done loads of public speaking. But to perform in front of an audience, like to dance or sing or act, would cause me to cower into a shivering heap. Or to go and hide under the nearest bed. An audience of one, in the mirror last night, was enough to cause my cheeks to burn crimson.

I did plenty of amateur dramatics as a little girl. I am the youngest of four, and my performances usually took the form of hands-on-hips tantrums at my older siblings to take me seriously. If they tried to applaud any one of those performances, they would have instantly regretted it.

My sister was always something of a thespian. Her favourite activity of a weekend was to write, produce, direct, narrate and star in a play for my parents. I remember one of our family homes had sliding glass doors that separated the lounge from the dining room: the dining room became our stage, the sliding doors our scarlet, velvet curtains. The audience, usually of two, relaxed in the royal box that was our lounge.

I was always a useful prop. I remember having to put on my school tracksuit – it was olive green – and stand with my arms in the air for the duration of one play.  In the closing credits, I was allowed – as the tree – to take a bough bow.

Occasionally, when the demands of writing, producing, directing and narrating were too great for my sister, I was given the title role. I remember being cast as Rapunzel and having to sit on a chair on top of the dining room table and let down my “golden hair”.

Let me digress here to tell you a bit about my hair. My parents believed in common-sense economy and their approach to life was typically post-war: no nonsense, no frills and definitely no long hair. Every time my sister and I went for a haircut, I’d long to have a word in private with the hairdresser, so I could ask her for “a trim”. It never happened. My mom would always insist on a “good haircut”, which meant that – yet again – I would walk out of the hairdressing salon looking like a boy.

So, golden locks were not in abundance in our home. I am blonde, but short hair that did not quite reach my collar would not do for Rapunzel. We twisted a yellow and white striped towel that tumbled from my head like a really heavy plait, and my handsome prince duly climbed that to reach me in the tower that was the top of the dining room table. I think we might have used a chair or some other hidden device, but it all ended happily.

Another time, I was cast in the role of Queen Victoria. Gordon, a painfully shy and obnoxious little boy who was the son of my parents’ friends who were visiting that Sunday, was cast as Prince Albert. He did not want to be in the play. His older sister threatened him with something, so he duly obliged. We sat on chairs next to each other, as husband and wife usually do: I had a doily on my head, and he was biting his foot.  I banged on about how much I wished we had a baby, and he nodded and chewed his foot and closed his eyes. The curtain went up.

“Three weeks later!” announced the narrator, my sister. The curtain opened to reveal a scene in the home of Victoria and Albert. With doily-decorated head, I lovingly cradled a baby doll in my arms. Albert continued to bite his foot. An immaculate scene indeed.

At high school I had the excruciating experience – as house captain – of having to direct and act in a house play. I had no intention of appearing on stage, but as the date of our performance neared, several cast members got ill, broke their legs or lost their voices. The play was called “Ants” and I had to play the part of an army ant, dressed in camouflage fatigues. I wouldn’t let my parents come and watch the play, and my time on the stage features among my worst, most sweaty-palmed and agonising moments of my life. I was certainly not born for a career in theatre.

So, my stupid jazz hands are not going to hinder me from going to Zumba classes. I’ll continue to shimmy and twirl and stomp my feet to those crazy Latin beats, but I’ll sure as heck step away from the mirror. Well away.

Sunshine signing off for today!

Zumba Your Cares Away

There was something of a scramble to stand at the front of our Zumba class last night. I put my towel down near the front and got elbowed out of the way. I took myself and my towel to the back of the class and soon discovered the cause of the cougar-fest: a cover guy instructor.

Tattooed and bandannaed, the substitute instructor had the class eating out of his hand. Which was at the end of a very sculpted bicep. He brought lightness and so much more fun into a class that is already fabulous – we mamboed and rumbaed through song after song; we jumped and we posed and we crossed and we hopped and we minced and we pouted. All to the Latin beat of the most remarkable songs. Have you ever heard the theme tune to The Pink Panther, with a Latin beat? Or the Latin version of Kenny Rogers’ Lady? I tell you, it’ll have your foot tapping in an instant.

Towards the end of the class Mr Cover Guy had us make a huge circle around the edge of the studio. He started, and one by one – if we wanted to – we were invited to go into the centre of the circle and share our moves, like we were really partying! That was such fun, although I wasn’t sure I really wanted to copy that one woman’s pole dancing moves … that’s a different dance class all together, I think.

We ended the class with a few, slow moves and, as the music ended, Mr Cover Guy was surrounded by women needing to “ask” him something. As for me, I bounced out of the studio and skipped home feeling light as air. For an hour, I had danced like no-one was watching, I had twirled and swayed and felt the rhythm of the music, and I totally shimmied my stress away.  I can’t imagine there to be a better cure.

Sunshine signing off for today!

Finding David Brent

I consider myself something of a serial eavesdropper. Not in a creepy way, but in a way that I do seriously tune into funny things that people say in restaurants, on the bus, on the tube, walking along the street. Doing just that in Essex on Saturday, I felt inspired to begin a mini-project within my blog: Finding David Brent.

David Brent - photo from http://www.dailymail.co.uk

You might have gathered that I am something of a fan of Ricky Gervais. Our family’s first taste of his humour was when we stumbled upon an episode of The Office on TV one Sunday evening. It was the episode where a motivational speaker had been hired to run a workshop with the Office staff. Gervais’ character, David Brent, was supremely threatened by this and did all he could to interject, take over or add in his take on what the speaker was talking about. In the end, David Brent took out his guitar and played a song he’d written. It was a hilarious episode, our first encounter with Gervais and the “mockumentary” style and we were hooked on both.

So following on from the David Brent dance-alike in my Zumba class of a few weeks ago (The Office Moves), we came across another dead ringer over the weekend. We went shopping in Essex on Saturday, and stopped for lunch in a little coffee shop in the mall. David Brent and his wife came in, and stormed out when the table they had been eyeing was taken by a young mum and her two small children. He audibly sighed, “That was our table,” before picking up his skirts and flouncing out of the coffee shop with his wife, giving the young mum a look that could kill.

About ten minutes later, the table next to ours became free. In walked DB and his wife (not sure where they’d been lurking – perhaps just outside the door), and they sat themselves down as soon as they could, making sure no-one could beat them to the spot. He announced to his wife, for all to hear (and I’m guessing he’d have looked into the camera, David Brent-style, had there been one):

“Right, love, whatever you want, buy. Cheapest.”

And that is something that only David Brent would say.

Sunshine signing off for today.

The Office moves

So yesterday evening I went to my wonderful Zumba class at the gym. I had my blinkers firmly in place, because I thought, “I-can’t-blog-about-this-class-again-I-can’t-blog-about-this-class-again.” And then it happened.

Who would have guessed that there would be someone in my Zumba class who had the moves of The Office’s David Brent? More than this, I will not say. Big Blogger’s watching me.

Sunshine signing off for today!

Movies and other moving moments

Yesterday I took a tube into central London, and then took a walk into a small, dusty town in the north of South Africa. I witnessed a whole lot of life, South African and international, learnt a lesson about myself and ended my day with a dance and a funny movie.

My new blogging friend, Lisa at Notes from Africa, asked me the other day if I’d followed the London Film Festival, sent me a link to the website and mentioned the South African movie, “Life, Above All”. I checked out the website, wondered how we could have let the Festival go by unnoticed, and booked myself a ticket for the final screening of the South African offering. I also signed us up for a newsletter for next year’s Festival. Thanks, Lisa!

It was an amazing movie, telling the story of Chanda, a young South African girl living in small rural town in the north of the country. The central theme is her relationship with her ailing mother, following the death of her infant sister. It deals, poignantly and thoughtfully, with issues such as child-headed households, AIDS orphans, infant mortality and the stigma of AIDS. I can see that the movie would be an Oscar contender, it is beautifully made and the acting is outstanding. I had hoped South Africa had moved beyond the extreme stigma as portrayed in the movie, but I don’t know what life is like in rural South Africa. The movie made me feel sad, on so many levels, but I’m glad I saw it. And I would recommend it in a heartbeat.

On the way in to Leicester Square, I had to change tubes at Waterloo. Walking through the endless underground walkways, I heard the most amazing music in the distance. When I realised I was walking away from it, I turned back to see where the sounds were coming from. Upbeat, fabulous sounds of an electric guitar – it sounded like Eric Clapton on a caffeine buzz. I even considered throwing caution and inhibition to the wind and dancing like no-one was watching.

When I got close to the source of the music, I saw the guitarist was a really scruffy looking guy. I took one look at him and turned away. I felt so ashamed. I had been drawn to his music and then turned off by how he looked. I turned around again and stood and listened to him. His music was brilliant. I threw some money into his guitar box, and he flashed me a toothless grin and thanked me. I walked away, humbled and shamed.

When I got to Leicester Square, I walked to the Square to sit in the park and write in my notebook. The park was filled with carnival rides – oh, the disappointment! I wondered what Charlie Chaplin would think. I walked around for a while and then went to collect my ticket for the movie. As I stood in the queue, a creepy man came up to me and said, “Are you here for Essential Killing?” I said, “No,” and he said he had a spare ticket. I wished I’d said, “No, I’m here to watch a movie. I left my weapons at home,” but I was too slow.

After the movie, I walked back towards the tube station. The Square was filled with people and as I walked I saw face-face-face-face-face-face-face. So many faces blurred into each other and I felt overwhelmed by the crowds and the people and the faces. Soon as I could I headed down the stairs to the tube. There were more faces coming up the stairs and, in the midst of all of them, I spotted Francesca Annis. I don’t know how I spotted her among the millions, but there she was. If you don’t know her, she is a beautiful , accomplished English actress, whom I first saw playing the role of Lillie Langtry in a mini-series called Edward the Seventh.

And then back to my flat and off to a Zumba class. Our instructor’s been away for a few weeks but last night she was back, the music was cracking, she was smiling and we danced.

I do wish the worst dancers wouldn’t stand at the front. Then I wouldn’t notice them. And I wouldn’t blog about them. But they did. And I did. And now I just have to. I can’t help it. It’s not they weren’t coordinated or anything – their clothes were a perfect match with their shoes – it’s just that, well, they couldn’t dance. (Anyone know Allan Sherman’s I Can’t Dance? Cue the music.) Maybe that’s why our instructor was smiling so much.

One had attitude – her facial expression was all sneezes and whistling – and the other did exactly the opposite of everyone else. Every time. We went right, she went left. We lifted our hands and brought them down. She did the opposite. We went forwards, she went backwards. Bless her for trying, but I’m not sure she’ll do an Arnie and be back.

And then my day ended with watching a mindless and very funny DVD. My husband and I snuggled on the sofa to watch Date Night – what a funny movie! Steve Carell trying to out-badmouth a gangster was just hilarious. We laughed so much.

Tears, laughter, a little bit of dance, a whole lot of life and one blog. In the words of Will Ferrell in Anchorman, “It’s boring but it’s my life.”

Sunshine signing off for today.