Songs for Oli. Songs for hope.

I SO like the lovely lot who come to Rockits. Numbers are a bit low at Ashford and the hall is very expensive as we also have to pay a caretaker to be present, but we are hanging in there. Really sweet members here and some fabulous voices. We haven’t continued with a big publicity push, as Covid is looming everywhere and we need to keep numbers down, for now at least. We also can’t use the hall much later than 9pm which makes it a problem with helping those that want to do the show choir, but we have plans to solve this in 2022. Hawkhurst and Tenterden are going strong, full of very familiar faces, which always gladdens my days so enormously. I have seen most of these faces for ten years or more and they are like family to me. I love this term as we get to pull the old Christmas favourites out of the hat. If only we could remember the harmonies, haha.

Rex. Kind of the road.

Cancer is relentless. Relentless. Merciless. Cruel. I was reading about new medical advances and pleased to see that survival rates have doubled in the last twenty years. That’s still not good enough and we can all play a part in helping those survival rates rise further. WE can be relentless in our pursuit of better treatments, so that all types of cancer can be dealt with. More money means more research and that may never lead us to a complete cure, but it will enable cancer patients to live longer and more comfortable lives. I have been saddened to read about a lovely local family whose son Oli Ross, has a brain tumour and needs urgent treatment abroad. Oli is just fifteen. This could happen to ANY of us, to any of our children or grandchildren and I can think of nothing worse. You would move a mountain to help your child overcome this beast of a disease. When things are looking bleak, the one thing we can grasp, is hope. We can pull together and we can add all of our hope together. I have a son called Ollie. He is thirty-seven and I thank God he and his family are happy and healthy.

My Ollie with Finny.

I was contacted by Oli’s nan asking if the Hearties would help with the fundraising for the treatment (travel, accommodation etc) in Germany. This is EXACTLY what the Hearties are here for, so yes, of course! We will be performing a concert at Bilsington Priory, Ashford, for Oli’s fund, on 19th December. Christmas Cabaret By Candlelight, here we come! As I type this, I hear the ‘ping’ of messages arriving in my mailbox, ticket sales for this event. The tickets will arrive from the printers on Friday; that morning will be spent posting out these tickets. Yay! Then it’ll be back to cabaret – I have a running order! Phew. I’ve added a little chunk from Disney’s Anastasia, which will pull us into Christmas. I like the songs and they are full of frosty words and December lyrics. We were also contacted by Woodchurch Church to arrange a fundraiser for them in March 2022. We will be performing on behalf of Macmillan Cancer Support. Our calendar is already filling up!

In my Dreams – duet. © Arr Max Wilson.

Birthday Mumsy and Welcome to the 60’s!

Happy Birthday Mumsy. Mine is a great mum, who always puts us first and is always there for us all. She does school runs, masses of our laundry, keeps our fridges stocked and is quite unstoppable with her endless support. We had a lovely meal at Montalbano and then I came straight home and finished off my third arrangement (below) in as many days – all from ‘Hairspray.’ Cabaret is coming…

Butsy on the left – but which is the real Sue Pollard?

Cabaret is buzzing all the time in my head and in my dreams. Exhausting. While in bed, I run through the top and tails (intro and outro) of the songs I’m considering and try to find what fits where. It’s hard choosing the songs too. I’m bored with lots of musicals we have previously covered, so I’ve been sifting through newish ones, which will be new to the audience too, so they must be strong songs that will pull an audience in, even though they are hearing them for the first time. Then I think of the logistics – if those singers are over there for X, how suddenly can they be at Y? Then there’s the issue of keeping everyone Covid safe, so no changing in sweaty changing rooms and no bodies squashed together backstage. I want the running order done ASAP and then we can keep going over it until we get it right and then keep going until we can’t get it wrong! Haha. I don’t like something I’ve done to be a reason we don’t do well at it, so I try to have a plan A, B, C etc. If all else fails, I can become a Sue Pollard lookalike. I’ve got loads of naff plastic-framed glasses, dodgy hair and questionable fashion sense. If I die and become lionised (!!) and a film is made of my life, Sue Pollard can play me, Ed Harris can play Dad, Steve Coogan can be Nige and Jane Fonda can be mum. If I don’t die, the only other thing I would love to do is lead a competitive cheerleading team, like Navarro Cheer, my favourites, I know ALL the terminology. I’m wondering if we could try a human pyramid at cabaret? Kate C could be the flyer.

A first date for Rufus.

When it gets to about 3am and I need to shut off cabaret, I watch endless terrible Christmas movies. The very cheap ones have fake, wadding snow, plastic trees and cancer patients that look like they are wearing flesh coloured swimming caps. Convergence on Netflix is fabulous, all about the pandemic and the worlds unsung heroes who help to pull us all to a better, safer place. Quite horrific to see how the pandemic hit poorer countries and so tragic and heartbreaking to see victims piled in temporary mortuaries and dead on the streets. These people belonged to families and loved ones. The documentary focused on people from different countries throughout 2020, a hospital porter, a nurse, a taxi driver, an ambulance driver, a scientist etc. It made me cry at one point, as you see how close a 15 year old boy came to dying (Mexico) but somehow, the medical staff pull him through. At the end you see him in a wheelchair, pitifully thin, being taken outside so he can see his dad for a few minutes for the first time in months. Poor boy, he has a tracheotomy and looks so unwell. He can’t talk, but the visible relief when he sees his dad, the tears just roll endlessly down his face. Bless him. It’s odd that man has spent so much time and money ensuring wars can be fought, without being ready to fight a virus or making sure our world is habitable for all its inhabitants.

What a gent – he is laughing his head off at all her jokes, haha.
Welcome to the 60’s. © Arr Max Wilson.

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Hawkhurst, Halloween, Happiness.

My Halloween beauties.

Halloween. Oh the little ones just loved it. The boys were an assortment of things, including a spider, a bat, a ghost and some kind of robot-spaceman. Rufus went to collect goodies from the neighbours and said, “tickle treat” when they opened the door, haha. Had a lovely visit from the biggest of the BIG3 and his clan. SO wonderful to see them all for an afternoon. Finny has grown 3cm since I last saw him. I think they stretch him on a rack overnight. We went for a walk along the high street, kicked up the autumn leaves and bought Finny a Spiderman helium balloon.

Ru-Spider, Rexy-Bat, Finny-Ghost xxxxx

I really enjoyed singing with the Hawkhurst Rockits tonight. Last week I was a little disheartened as there were teething troubles with the new hall and it was such a quiet week. Totally different tonight – a lovely vibe, the lighting had been fixed, the sound was better and we had some great newbies who came along with their equally great voices. All groups are still on the quiet side as I know some are still nervous of Covid, but really, the halls are so spacious and airy now, that they must be safer than just about anywhere else people go! We sang a fun version of Bat out of Hell, haha. Whatever happened to Meat Loaf?

What character is Little Max? Answers on a postcard please.

I couldn’t sleep and made a mental list of top tips. Mental, haha. 1. If you’re poaching eggs, they must be fresh. 2. Minimise your material stuff and always choose quality over quantity. 3. There are just nine Maltesers in a mini bag, never offer to share one. 4. Feed your mind. Watch documentaries, ask questions, read, sing! 5. Know your audience. By this I mean behave in a way that will not cause offence to anyone in your company. 6. Lifestyle is far more important than money. I am working on improving my lifestyle. We need very little money to actually live, just enough to be truly happy (pay our bills) and if we are lucky, find a career that is rewarding. 7. Put your phone down if you find yourself glued to it, especially at night. Life is precious and not worth wasting on FB. 8. This is my most recent discovery. We are all going to die. You, me, us. I think we are the only species cursed with this fact. So, we must live this life as best as we can as it’s the only one we get. 9. Never let your friends/team/family down. Flaky is only good if you’re a sausage roll and a flake is only good if it’s made by Cadburys. There, that should see my boys through their adult lives!

Casper, AKA Finny, with his pumpkins!

The Book of Love and a Wall Inside my Head.

The Hearties now believe in themselves. I don’t think they ever realised just how good they are until recently. They connect now, they share the moment, they blend their voices, they feel the music. Dynamics are there – a powerful wall of sound at times and a gentle hush at others. Love, love, loved it! Last nights event, The Book of Love, at St. Mildred’s Church was one of my favourite events we’ve done. The programme was perfect, the soloists, Beth and Ross and our small group, Caroline, Suzanne, Beth, Gwyn and Karen P., were faultless. So proud of them all. It’s no small thing to stand in a packed church and calmly sing in a small, exposed group. They all did. A man came up to me right at the end, tears in his eyes and said, “I have to tell you that was so moving and so brilliant, I loved every second.” Hearties, you were spectacular. Our new bar crew, headed by Thomas and Jake, was excellent too and huge thanks to our lovely stage team, Dad, Roy and Jon. Thanks guys. Caroline did a top notch job of coordinating the event and blowing up a gazillion little balloons. Rosina and gang sold over £700 worth of raffle tickets! xx

The astonishing Alto 1’s. xxxxxxx

I always had a vision for this event. I wanted to get inside the audience and that is exactly what we did. Bridge Over Troubled Water at the end was quite euphoric. Spirit, yes we had our spears in our hands as we stood on the Plains of Serengeti, haha. We even managed to get through the unaccompanied bit in The Prayer, phew! I love reading the group WhatsApp chats today, all still buzzing and some very funny remarks. “The lows included first aid in their operations last night also. One of my penguins got eaten by an alto in need. I like to think we were the custodians of the event.” “Just lovely, and Ross and Beth. And the bit in the Prayer with no music which nearly made me cry. And the top note from the sops at the end of Ave. And the spear-bashing in Spirit. And the new rap section in You Will Be Found… and, oh everything. I love it. Thank you all for being you and thank you Max for being Directrice par excellence.” Cute. Rap section in You Will be Found, hahaha. Oops.

Ross and Beth did us very proud!

In 2017 we were at St. Mildred’s for a performance of our original musical, The Crimson Palace. It was the actual day my cancer was diagnosed and the news quickly spread. I was totally fine and had resigned myself to this fact long before I was taken into that consultation room. I think its often the case with these nasty diseases that it’s the ones around us that suffer the most. Heads were down that day at the church and poor Beth couldn’t sing, but I saw such warmth and support shown to her from all the choir. Huge hearts in the Hearties and Rockits.

And a lovely packed St. Mildred’s Church. Just how it should be!
The Wall in my Head. © Arr. Max Wilson.

Circus acts and busy weeks.

It’s been a bloody busy week, but a good one. Babysitting duties (poor Rexy has been poorly again), rehearsals and gearing up for tomorrows event have kept me on my toes. The weeks fly by, last Sunday, Nige and I zipped up to Statford Shopping Centre on the high speed train from Ashford. Half an hour and there we were! I managed to do a very speedy and successful hit of Christmas shopping and we sampled the delights of two cafés. Usually, I am pretty much set for Christmas by now, but I only get a free half day occasionally, so I have to cram in as much Christmas prep as I can. I have put together a brave set of songs for tomorrow’s event at St. Mildred’s, especially brave considering the fact we are now down ELEVEN singers! Aaaaah. I get fuming mad, of course NOT at those who told me ages ago that they weren’t available and certainly not at those who have serious personal stuff going on or are unwell, I care and support that, but what makes me cross are those that announce they are not turning up because they have a better offer. That’s the truth. The hundreds and hundreds and hours put into learning the songs, not to mention the time I put into arranging them and all the planning that goes into an event. A sound crew are brought in, a videographer, tickets are sold…Tomorrow, a chunk of the choir are missing and this is a huge shame as we can’t then sound like the whole choir. It’s not a case of just singing louder. I should be used to it by now. The majority of our ladies are amazing, dedicated and hardworking, thank God – but we also have a few flaky ones. For this reason, newbies MUST be brought in so that when I am let down I have a bench full of reserves (the reserves will be the flaky ones anyway haha). Bah Humbug. Anyhow, we will still sound amazing, I am confident of that and I really love the programme for this event too xxxxxx

A lovely bunch of Ashford Mid 1’s tackle their Christmas Lights video. xx

I have a new car which is very lovely and has a massive boot which will house my PA and gear and still leave room for a dead body rolled in a rug (I’m always prepared). Dads cousin, Terry, has come up trumps as always. He won’t be as happy as me, as he now has my old car to bring back to life and sell on. My cars take a bashing. Terry is to secondhand cars what Gok Wan is to overweight housewives. Both can turn back the clock, hahaha (only joking!!!). Terry has a good and very big heart and the sense to know I’m gonna need lots of reminders that this car takes diesel.

The delights of Stratford – tea and cake.

As part of my pre-moving clearing, eventually, I am selling a little, round, wooden stage that’s in my garage. I just need it gone, so it’s on Marketplace for a pittance. I have had some interest from a lady. She asked loads of questions and then added, “it’s for my mini horse, Alan. I’m teaching him to do tricks and showstoppers.” I then presumed it was someone mucking about. Nope, Alan has his hopes set on becoming a circus superstar, haha. I have a video to prove it! I am going to attempt to train Hugo to use the (human) toilet. It appears this is doable with these very intelligent cats and you can buy training seats that fit on your own toilet seat. If this works, I will train him to put his socks in the laundry basket.

Tenterden Alto 1 Hearties giving it their all – Elf on the Shelf too!