Is Mary Poppins knocking?



“Winds in the east, mist coming in, like somethin’ is brewing and bout to begin…Can’t put me finger on what lies in store… but I feel what’s to happen, all happened before”

from Mary Poppins

The jolly Christmas holiday period has given me the opportunity to re-watch two excellent films: the original Julie Andrews’ classic Mary Poppins which I have seen more times than I can count but it still as brilliant as ever… and… Saving Mr. Banks, which, for so many reasons, I think is an excellent film.

The ‘winds in the east’ rhyme that is used at the beginning of Mary Poppins and the end of Saving Mr Banks seems particularly poignant as a new year approaches. This time of year is filled with traditions and habits which can bring joy, comfort, warmth and hope. They can also evoke grief and sadness, encourage overindulgence and make people feel despondent and stuck. I’ve never really been a fan of New Year’s Eve but, for better or worse, I am a fan of new year’s resolutions… any resolutions actually…I make resolutions pretty much every day… some I keep… many I don’t. I’m fascinated by people and by their habits, their choices, their desires and it’s interesting to think about what sparks change for them. Is a new day or a new year enough to give you that push to start something you’ve always wanted to start…or stop something that is doing you more harm than good? Or does it take something more than that?

I read a brilliant quote from Oscar Hammerstein II which was printed on the back of the programme for Danielle Tarento/Southwark Playhouse’s recent production of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Allegro: 

When an old problem is discussed, it is an easy thing to say, ‘We’ve heard all that before’. But hearing it all before has done no good if one hasn’t learned anything from what he has heard. If men are continuing to squander their time and usefulness for the wrong things, it would seem important to point this out to them. 

– Oscar Hammerstein II, Doylsetown, PA. January 12 1948.

Ain’t it the truth? Can I get a ‘hell yeah’ for that one?!?! I mean… Isn’t that why we write/perform/create/share/discuss/debate everything… but before I go off on a whole ‘it’s our responsibility to change the universe’ tangent here…let’s start small… and think about our personal habits and choices. What stops us from making a change? or… more importantly… what SPARKS a change? This is what I like to call… ‘Mary Poppins knocking’.

‘Mary Poppins knocking’ is illustrated so beautifully in the dual timeframes of Saving Mr. Banks: The real life aunt that is said to have inspired Travers’ Mary Poppins could not save her father from an untimely death due to his alcoholism, yet the fictional Mary Poppins managed to ‘save Mr. Banks’  and ensure he reestablished a loving, kite-flying relationship with his children. Travers’ father had not been able to change for any considerable period of time despite the many ‘Mary Poppins knocking’ moments in his life… losing job after job, his children bringing him immeasurable joy and love.. He wasn’t a bad person. The noise of his addiction drowned out Poppins’ knocking. Though, a potentially extreme example…I wouldn’t mind betting (if that weren’t yet another vice) that there are times when all of of us choose not to hear ‘Mary Poppins knocking’… She doesn’t give up… she reminds us again and again… sometimes with a nudge as subtle as a breeze of a missed opportunity or our jeans feeling too tight and sometimes with a storm that leaves us devastated. When these ‘storms’ arrive it is easy for us to see them as yet another reason why our lives are difficult or not playing out in the way we had hoped but, in retrospect, once we have weathered these storms, we realise they were the turning points that led us to discover something new or make a change. It’s harder, perhaps, to notice and respond to the ‘breezes’ and more polite ‘Poppins knocking’ moments. The key is to listen. If there is one wish that I have for you all, it’s to hear the knocking. Become aware of the little things that are doing you good and find more of them. Let go of the habits that don’t help you. There will be several chances but you only have one life. As a very wise woman, who became the Mary Poppins we know so well once said…”Sometimes opportunities float right past your nose. Work hard, apply yourself and be ready. When an opportunity comes, you can grab it.” Well, that’s what Julie would do…how about you?


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