It’s not that I wasn’t scrolling through my feed on Friday night with a growing sense of dread…Explosions in Paris, no details. Shooting, no details, also in Paris. Suspected hostage situation at a rock concert in Paris, no details. I turned off twitter knowing something grave was happening, that around 60 people had died, and thanking my lucky, lucky stars that I had my family safe around me.
It’s not that I wasn’t horrified on Saturday morning when, on that first bleary scroll through the morning’s news it became apparent that Friday night’s events were even worse than it had seemed, with around 120 dead. By the end of the day that figure had risen to 128; I believe it’s now 132.
It’s not that I didn’t want to show my respect for the victims, caught up in something beyond their control, and beyond most of our comprehension.
It’s not that I didn’t want to tell the world ‘I stand against this horror’.
It’s not for any of those reasons that I chose not to set my Facebook profile to the Tricolore.
I nearly did, actually. I had a moment of thinking I should do it, because everyone else had, and because I didn’t want to look like I didn’t care. But then, as a twitter friend so rightly said, would I be doing it for me, or for them?
I do care. I do care about the lives lost, the lives ruined, the children who will grow up without parents, the parents who will live their lives out having had to bury their kids. I care horribly about the fact that this is far from the end of the story, and that there will be more deaths, and that short of actually wrapping them in cotton wool, I can’t protect my kids from any of it. I care that every day, EVERY DAY, brings news of people’s lives ruined, torn apart, by atrocities both man made and natural.
All of those lives matter. ALL of them. Not just the ones we share a common bond with, through geography, or language, or colour, or creed. Not just the ones in a city we love to visit. Not just the ones that are near to us, near enough to remind us that it could be us, our kids, our friends, next time.
All lives matter. But by changing my profile picture on Saturday, I felt I would be subscribing to the narrative that some lives matter more. And that can’t be right.
I’m afraid I have reached the grand old age of, uh, OLD, without ever making it to the second star to the right, let alone to an operatic performance. My knowledge of opera is limited to the oft-played set pieces that have accompanied various sporting events – Nessun Dorma transports me immediately back to my ‘A’ Level summer for example – but beyond that, I’ve got nothing. Nada, zero. zilch.
No more! Last night, my girl in the middle and I were treated to tickets to the UK premiere of Richard Ayre’s ‘Peter Pan’, performed by the Welsh National Opera at the Wales Millennium Centre. Of course we are both familiar with JM Barrie’s tale of the boy who never grew up, but beyond that, neither of us knew what to expect.
The WNO has really pulled out all the stops to make the experience welcoming to children (and slightly out-of-their-depth adults!) The performance started early, at 6.30pm, and beforehand the impressive public space at the Welsh Millennium Centre was busy with free pirate themed activities including treasure hunts, face painting and story telling. There are also surtitles (in both English and Welsh) which were a boon to our un-operatic ears, and for this reason I’d say that the WNO’s recommendation of 8 and above was spot on – being able to read the lyrics as they were sung made the performance much more accessible.
Fuelled with the obligatory special-treat trip to Nandos, we took our seats expectantly and waited for the performance to start. ‘Is this your daughter’s first trip to the opera?’ boomed a gentleman beside me. ‘Er, yes, and mine’ I answered slightly nervously. ‘We’ve got Wine Gums!’ interjected my girl proudly, and I rather thought that this might cause some raised operatic-type eyebrows from the real grownups around me. However the gentlemen seemed remarkably unfazed and couldn’t have been friendlier, pointing out composer Richard Ayres as he chatted to audience members across the way.
We had enough time to read the programme synopsis before the show started, and I would certainly recommend this if you are attending with children, at least for the first scene. This features a wordless romp through the Darlings’ lives as they transform from happy-go-lucky newly-weds to rather more careworn parents of three children; without having read the blurb I think this would have been tricky to grasp (though that might just be the voice of an uncultured 40-something speaking!)
After this visually and orchestrally impressive opener, the show moved to the more familiar nursery scene, where we met Wendy, John and Michael, and of course Nana the dog, caring for the children while Mr and Mrs Darling get ready for an important party. Needless to say their preparations are hindered by their children, and it was at this point that I could feel my daughter becoming drawn in to the story – ‘see Mum, kids liked winding their parents up even in the olden days!’
From this point on, she was totally absorbed. The aerial antics of Peter, Wendy, John and Michael as they flew to Neverland were a great hit, as was the ethereal Tink fluttering around the stage thanks to some incredibly clever animation. She also loved the busy scenes as Wendy was introduced to the Lost Boys who plead with her to be their mother – however it was the appearance of Captain Hook and his pirate ship that drew the biggest smile.
And no wonder – Captain Hook (played by same the singer as played Mr Darling) was everything you could want from a dastardly Pirate Captain. He and his colourful crew kept us entertained every time they appeared, until their fun was curtailed by the sound of Captain Hook’s watch ticking away, indicating that the Crocodile was near…or perhaps someone pretending to be the crocodile!
The pirates stole the show, but Tiger Lily and her band of fighters were also a highlight for my girl. She giggled her way through Tiger Lily and Peter boasting about their escape from Captain Hook as a furious Wendy tried (and failed) to point out that it was in fact her cunning that effected the rescue – this was my favourite scene also, perhaps because it was reminiscent of the squabbles that take place daily in our house!
It’s occurred to me that I have not really mentioned the music at all so far. This isn’t because I didn’t enjoy it – quite the opposite – but more that I don’t really have the musical understanding or technical vocabulary to describe it, nor do I have the knowledge to place it in any sort of context. What I can say is that though it took me a while to get my head around the operatic singing style and pared-down dialogue, my daughter seemed to instantly feel at home; also the fact we’re both humming along to parts of the show this morning speaks for itself I think.
The story ends as we all know it will – despite the excitement of Neverland, and much to Peter’s disgust, the children fly back to Nana and the heartbroken Mr and Mrs Darling – accompanied by the Lost Boys, all welcomed with open arms. A happy ending for the Darlings, though as always, we are left to wonder about Peter and Tink as they return to Neverland….
I’ve been wending my way towards this point for four years or so. Saving the pennies, appointing and working with an architect, discussing plans, going through the Planning process, getting approval from Building Control, navigating the Party Wall Act, choosing a builder, and most recently installing a new hot water system in readiness (thanks Dad for that bit!)
Although all these tasks have been steps on the journey towards our loft conversion, I’ve never really believed that it will actually happen. I know that sounds weird, but I guess it’s at least partly due to the fact that however stressful the journey up until now has been, I know in my heart that the real stress is yet to come. And of course the best way to deal with impending doom is bury my head as far in the sand as possible.
Sand or not, here we are. The loft is cleared out ready; the materials are ordered; scaffolding is going up in a couple of weeks and it is *just* possible that we could move into the new room at the beginning of the summer holidays. I’ve even got a vague colour scheme in my head and have started spending a lot of time on Pinterest in search of ideas I can nick inspiration….though I know from the bitter experience of friends who’ve had loft conversions that this might be a little premature.
You’d think I’d be excited to have the end in sight, after all this preparation and planning. But I’m not. Mostly, I just feel sick. How can I project manage something like this on my own? What if the house falls down or something really awful happens? How am I going to keep everyone on an even keel when things go wrong? How am I going to hold everything together for everyone when we can’t move for dust and boxes? How am I going to deal with the Husband’s stress levels, already stratospheric before we have even begun? How on earth did I think that I could manage all this on top of everything else?
‘Things are a bit shit. But the glory of getting old is experience; I know that this melancholy won’t last forever. I’ve been here before, and the knots eventually untangle, revealing a simpler, happier time. I’m lucky enough to recognise that, although the day-to-day me is on the floor at the moment, there are some good things going on too…’
I’m also getting old, and usually I’m not too bad at waiting for the knots to untangle. But right now, I’m at the very pointiest end of the pinch and I’m finding it hard to see past everything that could go wrong in the next few months. I’m sure that as Lottie says a simpler, happier time will reveal itself. I just have to batten down the hatches and wait.