“Don’t talk of dreams filled with desire, if you’re on fire, show me!”
Eliza Dolittle – My Fair Lady
Death is surely the most poignant reminder that we should live each day to the full. In the last week, I have heard of the passing of two brilliant women: one of my old singing teachers and a friend from my childhood ballet classes who was stolen far too soon, after a long battle with cancer. I also went to the cinema and saw the adaptation of Jojo Moyes’ “Me Before You”… so…it’s been emotional.
I am settling into a new flat and have been up to my eyes in flat-pack furniture assembly, decorating and the like. There is still a fair bit to do, but, hopefully, by this time next week, we will be sorted. Mary Poppins’ click and magic everything tidy/do all the D.I.Y. ability would be really helpful right now! The chaos of moving and the uncertainty of my work life has meant I’ve found myself on my ‘grumpy cow’ setting more than usual of late. The little things were getting to me and I was feeling overwhelmed and exhausted.
Then came the reality check. The news that, Hazel, my old singing teacher, and my childhood ballet pal, Shani, had both passed hit me hard. I hadn’t really been in touch with either of them recently but, in different ways, they had been very important to me. Shani was like a big sister to me at ballet classes. I was the youngest in the class and she took me under her wing and always looked out for me. She was so friendly, positive and supportive. A lovely girl. I met Hazel when I took her Concert Singing course at Birkbeck College in my gap year. She was a fantastic, formidable singing teacher and woman. She had the kind of presence that sort of terrified and inspired in equal measure and I always felt she was fair and honest (brutally so, at times). There is not a week that goes by that she doesn’t pop into my head in some way when I am teaching or practising… be it the good old ‘tongue stretching’ exercises she taught me that I still use in my vocal warm up and her classic reminders for singers:
- ‘Energy under the eyes’
- ‘Don’t put the phone down in the middle of a conversation’ (her analogy to remind us not to switch off in the musical interludes of a song)
- The way she would say that ‘The old Italian masters used to say that you must sing your exercises as if they are an aria…’ (make them mean something).
I can’t think of her without smiling. I was so fond of her and she broadened my love of the classical song repertoire and helped me to build strong foundations that continue to serve me well in my singing and teaching career.
Anna and I went on a long overdue sister date to see the film “Me Before You” on Tuesday night. We had both really enjoyed reading Jojo Moyes’ book (and the sequel) because we like a good dose of chick lit once in a while. So, we went, armed with tissues, popcorn and chocolate buttons. I know the film has received a lot of criticism as some say it romanticises disability and assisted suicide and some have commented that the marketing campaign based around the hashtag ‘live boldly’ could have been replaced with ‘die quickly’…I don’t think that the makers of the film intended to offend disabled people and carers in any way. The Hollywood gloss is very unlikely to give any real representation of life as a quadriplegic. However, the film served it’s purpose as a tear jerker and I enjoyed it. My sister was an emotional wreck and didn’t stop sobbing until about 10 minutes after the credits rolled. Job done. The ‘live boldly’ tag line, poorly chosen or otherwise, isn’t a bad motto to take to heart. It’s important to remember that actions do speak louder than words. This week has been a stark reminder that life is short. So it’s time to take a dose of Eliza and show me what you’re made of…and I’ll show you.