So I have to admit, that when I had a baby removed from my uterus by Caesarian section several weeks ago, triple timesteps were the last thing on my mind. In the operating theatre, the hospital operated a dubious policy called the “gentle Caesarian” method. Oh goodie! I thought, they’ve finally invented a method of C section that doesn’t involve sawing you in half like a lady in that old circus gag, cutting through the lion’s share of your innards and making your insides look like a latticed blackberry pie (my husband’s words, dear readers, not my own). Well, it turns out that wasn’t true. The “gentle Caesarian” method means you can bring in your own i-Pod.
The anaesthetist was an old boy of my brother’s school. He lived in the same town as my old school. I decided not to mention that my old school was known as the “Whorehouse on the Hill” by his old school and braced myself for an NHS spinal block paid for by the great, marvellous British taxpayer. Much quicker than an epidural but twice as numbing, I then lay back to enjoy my first of two minor panic attacks.
“I feel like I am having difficulty breathing,” I gushed to Anaesthetist No 2, the one who hadn’t been to my brother’s alma mater and who had one of those upside down faces that, thanks to his beard, meant his head looked identical whether you were looking at it upside down or the right way up. I was, in this instance, looking at him upside down.
“Don’t worry, you are fine,” he said in that intensely mild-mannered, slightly condescending tone that medical experts use to idiots who understand little about things. “It’s because the anaesthetic has made you unable to feel yourself breathing, that’s all. You are fine. Would you like some more painkiller?”
“Yes please, yes please, yes please.” The upside-down man anaesthetist rolled his over-educated eyes up over my now cut half way in half body to the young anaesthetist who went to my brother’s school. “I think we need some music”.
My husband is the King of the Playlist. He develops playlists for every family event from school graduations to funerals. So, unsurprisingly, he was on the ball, musically speaking. We started with “Starman”, which meant I briefly got obsessed with Mick Ronson, and kept asking whether he was a relative of Mark Ronson, as it did seem odd to have two musicians sharing a surname who weren’t related. I was, of course, off my tits on drugs, but I think I was intensely listening to my husband’s response (No, Mark Ronson does not have a Hull accent) to distract from the fact my laid back surgeon had just used the “F” word : forceps.
In the middle of the second chorus of “Waterloo Sunset”, they winched out our 6 lb 9 oz son who had matching purple bruises at the bottom and top of his face thanks to the forceps and we turned the iPod off. But it got me thinking : music is incredibly important when you have a baby. You spend more time singing Daisy Daisy than you thought humanly possible, of course, but you constantly wind up musical toys, sing lullabies and use music as a lulling tool, much as the anaesthetists tried to do with me. I think it’s only a matter of time before someone invents an incredibly singing dummy that gets your baby off to sleep whilst it plays the back catalogue of The Prodigy. Plus, with a baby, you are at home all day. We have, as attentive readers will have noted, not one baby but two, although the older is a toddler. We spend much of our time indoors as getting out of the house takes two outfit changes, two Nurofen (for mummy), a double buggy, a raging breakdown, a nappy change, two change bags containing suit changes and juice pots and a definite loss of the will to live. And this is to get to Tesco. And Tesco Finchley, let me tell you, is where hope goes to die.
As our second child veers spectacularly towards his sixth week, my birthday looms. As many of you would have realised from previous posts, my favourite thing in the world is to get mildly pissed, sit in the first twelve rows of a great theatrical musical and weep. I am a seasoned graduate of the Teeth and Tits School of Musical Theatre, albeit it was so long ago we all still believed Tony Blair was a good idea. But with No 10 Downing Street going back to the 1980s by harbouring it’s own, dowdy, slightly sinister Mrs Thatcher, it only seems right that The Theatre Royal Drury Lane does what it did in the 1980s and put on 42nd Street. I saw 42nd Street there on my 10th birthday. The lead was a young unknown called Catherine Zeta-Jones. My memory is hazy as I was mainly obsessing about my french plait I’d got done that morning in the village hairdresser, but I do remember walking down the central aisle at the end of the matinee to peer over the top of the orchestra pit to see my brother’s godfather, the late great Lennie Bush, playing double bass, his great mop of fuzzy white hair rocking side-to-side to We’re In the Money.
You better be in the money to see this production. Top Stalls seats are £125. £125!! I’m a mum on maternity benefits, one hundred and twenty five squid can keep our house in Pampers and SMA for weeks. £125! I can fly to Rome and back for less. But the production is hugely expensive. A chorus of 43 with 10 further principals puts the cast at just under 60. That’s 120 tap shoes. Once you add the full orchestra, team of technicians, choreographers, stagehands and directors you’re looking at nearly 100 people. The production must cost six figures a week to run. But it’s my cup of tea : it’s the ultimate celebration (and rumination) on vaudeville that has ever been written, with the most exhilarating opening in musical theatre history. And I am a sucker for a shuffle ball hop. I love tap dancing. I used to love doing tap dancing until I lent my shoes to a friend who was appearing in We Will Rock You (makes no sense, no tap dancing in Queen) and never got them back. I haven’t double timestepped since the late nineties.
Will it come back into fashion now? Will people be seen, hurtling out of the Drury Lane theatre and around to the other side of Covent Garden, to Pineapple dance studios because they have seen something so uplifting, so fun, that they want to try it themselves? Tap dancing is remarkably satisfying. You can imagine you’re jumping and tapping on the head of your enemies – what bliss! Plus it’s LOUD. So, I booked the second tier of Stalls seats which wasn’t £125 a seat but was still a “credit card moment” for the matinee of my birthday. Yes, I have become a matinee person. You do when you’ve two small children and you want the lunch time wine to wear off by the time you return home to relieve your mother from the childcare and put your two year old in the bath. I used to be a strictly evening theatre sort of person. An evening at a show wasn’t an evening at a show unless it ended with a dozen Dublin Bay prawns at J Sheekey in the company of West End Wendies who would eventually fall into the gutter in Brewer Street seven gins down – but, the world changes. Now if I had seven gins I’d have to be hospitalised.
I will of course report back after shuffle-shuffle-shuffle-hop-hop-hop-step-LUNGE-single timestep-oops-I’ve-split-my-tights has been seen. Expect an expert breakdown of this homage of the Great White Way, seen through the misty haze of Barrafino Rioja and musical theatre nostalgia, on my birthday, and – before you ask – no, I’m not saying how old I’ll be. [Flounce. Step turn lunge. Exit stage left]
*The writer has since confirmed that Mick Ronson and Mark Ronson are not father and son. Annoyingly for Mark Ronson, there was an internet rumour that Mick Ronson was in fact his father. It got to the point where Mick Ronson’s widow called Mark Ronson’s mum to say, “Did you have illegitimate children by my deceased husband?” The issue is further confused by the fact that for a while Mark Ronson’s stepfather was another musical Mick – Mick Jones from The Clash.