I’ve said it before, if you stand still long enough your life comes round to greet you.
Last year I was invited to give a talk at my local Arts club. February 4th felt like an eternity away but I put it on my calendar and carried on with life. When it turned up last week it tapped me on the shoulder whispering ‘I’m Here.’ Where does the time go? I thought
Back in the day I was always busy doing talks, visiting the theatre and cinemas of London. I was forever clubbing and pubbing and enjoying the fruits of my labour and fraternising with other media types.
For the last ten years though, my live appearances have been few and far between as age crept up on me, not that I feel inappropriate, the producers, directors and programme controllers do though. I moved back to the cottage with it’s routine of eating, sleeping gardening and writing. Tonight was going to be different, a little like old times.
So when it got to Wednesday 2nd February I thought I’d better sit down and write a 45 minute speech. 4,500 words fills a 45 minute slot I wrote 5.000.
I set about writing about my life from 1952, when, aged three, I stood up in front of an audience wearing charity dresses and sung, a bit like now where I wear charity dresses but dont sing.
Friday wsa cold. Put on a dress and tights and a pair of second hand shoes with lovely ribbon bows, slung a puffa jacket over the ensemble, then decided to wear clogs so I wouldn’t fall down before I’d even started.
I drove for three minutes and swung into the driveway of the venue.
I put my notes in a jute bag from The Groucho Club, along with the ribboned shoes, and my mobile. I was greeted by the booker and Angela, the owner of the house. The main room was large, with a long table full of glasses and bottles of alcohol. A sign for the members told them where to put there contributions. The walls were hung with handsome paintings. The owner of the house had studied for four years at art school in Birmingham, then five years in Milan where she studied opera singing. Two of the paintings were hers, a blue wash stunner of an Italian church and a golden wash nude wrapped in a sheet, that was the nude not the painting
I was shown into the ‘green room’ the resting place for the visiting artiste. A double bed, free standing wooden mirror and a calmness that prompted me to ask if I could live there.
We chatted in the ante room then went into what had been a stable, thirty white garden chairs were placed on the be-rugged parquet floor. A beautiful grand piano sat at the far end of the room whilst antique furniture graced the rest of the space. My glass of hot water was provided with a coaster.
I went back into the green bedroom and changed from my muddy walking clogs into my beribboned talking shoes.
Went out to meet the audience. Two were new ‘old’ friends, one was an ex-pupil of mine and the other was our plumber’s partner. The rest of the audience were familiar from Waitrose, women of a certain age and their consorts, and a row of widows.
I went back into the green room, blew my nose and checked my phone before turning it off.
A geezer had messaged me.
‘How you are, your life, things like that.’
‘I’m 72 and still standing.’
‘Im 83 and still sanding”
‘You were a fucking cradle snatcher’
I told him I had to go since I was about to do a talk about my illustrious life.
We agreed to talk later.
Into the stables I went. The chatter died down. I discarded all my notes, looked in the eyes of the assembled listeners and started my life narrative.
From being born, to going to drama school, from touring with my theatre group to being head hunted for telly. From my life cycles, which to this day are four and half years long. I do seem to renew my whole life after a four and half year pattern. It may or my not be ideal but this is the way it is.
When we arrived at 1972 I told them about visiting Amsterdam and working at the ‘Mickery Theatre.’ I was 23, drop dead gorgeous, with the hair and eyes and teeth, my young self didn’t know it then and I certainly can’t claim it now. that young Jennifer Joy Barnett. had a devil may care attitude and a bucket load of Chutzpah. I told there assembled artist about travelling through Holland, over many cobbled roads, on the back of a motor bike. When I got off that throbbing beast my legs buckled and I walked like John Wayne for hours. I told my audience of the sleeping arrangements that were provided by well meaning supporters of the theatre. And then I shocked the local artists with the story of me walking into the foyer of The Mickery, how I stood at the bar and caught a bunch of keys a man threw at me. I pocketed them, looked at the key owner, got his address and disappeared into the wings. Come on you know what it meant as well as I did.
At the end of the evening I walked to the Herengracht. The second circular canal that Amsterdam has to offer. A city of tiny bridges, pretty canals and a flat that was to become mine for the duration of the tour. After the tour I left Amsterdam and the Herengracht loft and back came to the UK, only to return a, short time later, to set up home with the owner of the loft.
He took me to Paris
He wined and dined me.
We ate Indonesian meals
She bounced on his water bed
And then owner of the keys offered me his home and a relationship, which I embarked on for
When I retuned to perform at ‘The Royal Court’ in a new John Osborne play ‘Sense of Detachment’ which we called ‘Sense of Disinterest’, the Dutchman flew in from Amsterdam, entered the pub next door, got down on his knees, presented me with a copy of John Fowles’ ‘THE MAGUS’ asked me to marry him, left the saloon bar and flew back out of the door to Schipol airport.
He visited again and I took him to meet my mother. She opened the front door, looked him Up and down and said in her best cockERney.
‘You cant come in you are too ugly.”
I never saw him again. Although I read he became a man of wealth, and status.
Just before my speech I looked at the message again, the landlord of the Herengracht loft had written
We havn’t spoken for exactly fifty years, I wonder what prompted him to write to me on the very day I was about to talk about him?
Like I say, if you stand still long enough your life comes back to greet you.