Going through the motions

Grey.

Actually one of my favourite colours, my bedroom is painted grey, so is part of my bathroom. Damn, I’d paint the whole house in it if I didn’t think it would make Mr TF have kittens.

But at the moment, my mind is painted grey and I am not enjoying it so much.

Let me elaborate.

A lot of people use the colour black as a metaphor for depression: The black dog, black mood, black clouds etc etc  But my depression does not take me to the pits of despair (which I am truly grateful for) but plunges me into a pool of grey nothingness, where even the things I love the most are met with a nonchalant shrug.

I am a bit like a robot – I can walk around amongst the ordinary folk undetected, go to work, eat, sleep, go to the gym etc etc. But my mind is not there. It’s off contemplating how unextraordinary my life is, what an unremarkable person I am. Would it make a difference if everyone woke up one morning and I wasn’t there? (This one is usually accompanied by some fantasy to wake up in Fingal’s Cave or other such frivolity).

It is also usually accompanied by the fallout of the preceding mania, as 9 times out of 10, it comes directly after. (Glad to report minimal fallout this time, due to excellent support)

At the moment, my house is a mess; I tried to tidy but just ended up reorganising the cupboards which didn’t reorganising and giving all their contents to a charity shop (“We’re only two people! We only need two plates!!!!!”); I haven’t washed my hair in 5 days and it’s all chloriney from where I tried tried to swim my way out of the funk; and, in the absence of any sharp objects (thanks Mr TF!), I have paper cuts all over the tops of my arms.

But the main thing is how much nothing I feel. I would like to cry, I think it would do me good, but I can’t. I would like to laugh or shout or make jokes about a banana but..well, meh.

I also feel very much like I am floating outside of my body, looking down on it. Watching it live its life, in complete detachment from it. Things happen. Things don’t happen. Again… meh.

I know this will end. I know I am going to feel great and awful and in love and excited and queasy and petulant and joyous and cheeky and angry and reflective and relaxed and awake and hungry and thirsty and sated and happy and despairing and angst and confident and embarrassed and trusting and full of beans and wonder and… and… and… all the things.

I just cant see it yet.

Shakin’ all over!

So here we are.

Medicated.

I have resisted drugs for a long time, as I don’t like the idea of being controlled by medicinal chemicals.

But this time I knew I was heading off the cliff into the deep end of the paddling pool of grey nothingness that is a depressive episode.

This consists largely of my staring at a wall whilst shovelling ginger biscuits into my piehole, occasionally accidentally looking into a mirror and then having to cover it up with a towel.

If I’m honest though, I much prefer depression to mania… you know where you are with depression (in bed or the fridge, mainly) whereas with mania, Christ knows what you’re going to be doing in the next 30 seconds. It’s terrifying.

Mania is not happiness for me, it’s like being a wasp on speed – flying around at top speed, want the sugary thing, want out the window, want want WANT EVERYTHING.

Let me elaborate:

The two are like those relatives at a family gathering you would literally chew your own arms off to avoid.

Depression is like Uncle Bill. He’s dependable, predictable and will talk  about motorways and the resurfacing of the high street until one of you dies.

Mania is like embarrassing drunk Uncle Roy. You smile a pained smile as he arrives and think about how quickly you can hide all the booze…. uh-oh, too late.

He’s already drunk all the crusty 15-year-old Drambuie and is trying it on with his nephew’s girlfriend and has a plunger on his head for no conceivable reason.

So, ideally we would like to keep them at bay, lose their invitation “in the post”.

Sadly episodes are not invited to the party anyway, they just crash it every now and again, as and when they feel up to it.

So that’s when we have to bring out the big boys.

In this case, some anti-psychotics and sedatives.  There are lots of side effects, (more time in the fridge, aggression, sleepiness to name but a few,) which is the reason I try to avoid them, if possible.

But this time they have helped a lot.

I am having one emotion at a time, being the first one and I am writing this from the tube, not my bed, I am washed, dressed and plodding on.

I mean I’m not exactly full of the joys of spring but I can’t even begin to describe how much better I am doing.

There is one side effect which is a bit poo – I have the major shakes.

My hands are in pretty much constant movement and the only way to control it is to drum my fingers on whatever surface is near.

Soup is real no no right now – I can just about manage my granola but I have to eat at the table rather than my usual standing breakfast.

I can’t complain too much: In a competition between how I felt last week and how I feel now, now wins, shakey hands down.

In which Tilly goes flop.

So it’s been a while, indeed a “yonk,” as we used to say back in the day. A lot has happened and a little has happened and I guess what comes next is mainly therapy for yours truly as much as for anyone to actually read, so forgive me if the following is a completely self-indulgent load of nonsense.

The last time I was on here, life was looking up: I had had an operation to remove my little cysty friend and I was recovering, discovering the unadulterated joy of Ru Paul’s Drag Race. #DontFuckItUp (#ITotallyFuckedItUp).

So, what happened next?

I think the biggest thing which has happened is my long-suffering other half buying a house.  If I could give everyone a massive piece of life advice, it would be this:

Never buy a house.

It is literally one of the most horrifically stressful events that comes under the category of “normal things people do”.

It needn’t be but apparently in order to sell a property, one must either be terribly fickle or a gigantic arsehole (you can choose your preference on this one) and definitely a misanthropist.

To cut an extremely long tale short, we lost 5 properties due various combinations of the above, we lost 4 properties after having our offers accepted, 1 of which was the day before exchanging.

Now a normal person might have a little cry, be a bit angry and then chalk this all up to experience.  I, as you may have gathered, am not a normal person.

Cut to crazed Tillyflop, marching down the road in her pyjamas to “speak to” the owners of the property in a bid to convince them that actually, they had not changed their minds and did not want to stay at the property. I have absolutely no idea what I was planning to say to them, exspecially as it was 3.25 in the morning and they lived a good eight miles away from my flat (I managed five miles until Mr TF caught up, so at least I got my step count in! Every cloud and all that…)

And so began the gradual unravelling of my brain.

This is not something I generally talk about as it’s not a part of my make up that I am very proud of. However, I do feel that it’s something which does need to be shared.

It all started innocently enough – experimenting with face paint during rehearsals and then wearing the result on the way home whilst laughing maniacally (literally, it turns out):

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I then started getting a nagging feeling that a series of disasters and accidents were somehow my fault, and kept finding “links” which “proved” that I was responsible for these tragic events.

Also on the other hand, I started to believe that I had magical powers and could control traffic lights and delay trains if I was running late.

All of this would have been a great short story but unfortunately it was my day to day life, to which I could not rewrite the end.

The final straw came in December 2014 – we still hadn’t moved, six months after our offer was accepted due to… wah wah wah, (I’m still not sure what the hold up was, even now), our old landlord needed us out, as we had been told to give notice by the TERRIBLE conveyancing solicitors who then promptly – did nothing and almost lost us our flat, plus £9000.

I don’t recall how it happened but suddenly, I was awake, in a field in Eden Park, about 3 miles from my house. I was wearing my pyjamas and I had no idea how I got there and I was cold. I also had no money or phone or keys.  I have never been so terrified. Maybe I had been kidnapped by aliens and then dumped as a terrible specimen of humanity, but my filthy slippers stated otherwise.

In order to explain this, I must take you… TO THE DICTIONARY!

Dissociation: In psychology, the term dissociation describes a wide array of experiences from mild detachment from immediate surroundings to more severe detachment from physical and emotional experience.

Dissociation is commonly displayed on a continuum. In mild cases, dissociation can be regarded as a coping mechanism or defence mechanisms in seeking to master, minimize or tolerate stress – including boredom or conflict.

Basically I was kinda sleep walking but I was actually awake (which is good cause I crossed a fair few roads there!) my brain just couldn’t handle this stress and felt like a calming walk and it was damned if it was going to let my body stop that from happening!

This was a positive turning point, as my husband awoke to find me gone and called the police, who were actually rather marvellous. They insisted that I was seen by the local mental health team (who to say are overstretched is a terrible, terrible understatement) and they checked back with me a few days later, which did wonders  – a phone call can make all the difference.

After a few months of therapy and some new medication I was back to being level and just about functioning as an adult (there is only so much I can blame on bipolar, guys) and I had a wonderful 2015 filled with joys that I didn’t know existed.

I worked with some of my very favourite people, (Foolish People to be exact), on a show which headlined Wilderness Festival, and we rehearsed outdoors for two months, which also did me no end of good as well as just being lucky enough to create some wonderful magic with wonderful people. They got me to sleep IN A TENT! At a POPULAR MUSIC FESTIVAL!!!! (For those of you who don’t know me, Margot Leadbetter is my spirit animal) and I actually had a jolly outstanding time.

I also had found a new favourite pass time – decorating my flat!

What could be more joyful than finding a colour of paint that makes your bedroom feel like a cosy, tranquil hidey hole? Or a warm, fluffy (yet very cheap 😉 )down duvet. Or getting bored one afternoon when your husband is out and painting the living room wall navy blue? Or making sure that there’s a place for everything and everything in it’s right place? Or making sure the books are ordered by theme, or maybe colour, or maybe height? Or ordering your nail polish by date of purchase? Or using a ruler to ensure that all the magazines on the table run parallel to the table’s edge? Or spending 3 months finding the perfect Christmas tree baubles or…

I think you get the picture.

I needed something to channel my energy into, a new project, a new purpose.

And it came.
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We had thought that it wasn’t possible, after trying for almost 18 months with no success and had sorta given up by now, so we were both overwhelmed by the joy of it all, as were our families.

But in the back of my head was terror. Absolute terror that I was going to fuck this up somehow (sorry Ru), I had recurrent nightmares of just about every shitty possibility there possibly was but tried to push it to the back of my mind (it’s quite easy to do in such an empty space).

All we could of was wait for this scan and be extra careful.

But that little nagging terror stayed right there, masticating upon my ear.

And it was absolutely right.

There was this harrowing, disconsolate noise which I couldn’t quite place. On and on it went, seemingly endlessly. It scared and disturbed me deeply, I just wanted it to stop.

And then all of a sudden, I realised that the noise was coming out of me.

I lay on a trolley, my hands gripped fast to my face – if I didn’t look at the monitor, this couldn’t be true. But it was. The sonographer looked panicked and ran to fetch a different piece of equipment to afford a better look. But I knew this was no mistake – there was nothing there, just an empty sac, too small, too misshapen to do its job.

I couldn’t even look at Mr TF, I couldn’t bear to see his disappointment that I had let him down again.

I don’t remember anything else which happened in the hospital, lots of calming reassurance that this was nothing I had done or not done, that one in four pregnancies end this way (WHY DO I HAVE TO BE IN THIS SHITTY ONE IN FOUR TOO?! Why can I not be in the three in four, one of the normal, biologically sound people, just once?  I am already in a one in four exclusive club of misfiring brains, can I not be left out of this club? Would this be too much to ask? Or am I just some gruesome statistics experiment?)

What I do remember is what a gift Mr TF was/is. We had a lot of waiting to do and so we went for a walk and he just did the only thing I needed him to do – hold me and tell me that things would be fine, it would all work out, it just wasn’t our turn this time. He didn’t force me to talk, he didn’t force me to have a sit down and a chat, he just walked with me and we loved – we even laughed.

Let’s not forget, he’s going through this as well, so the fact that he took his time to do that on this darkest of days is something I will always remember and be grateful for.

More talk was had and I went out to see my friends, who I had gathered to deliver the good news (ha!) and they were wonderful too. I am so very lucky to have all these great people in my life.

It sounds corny, it probably is corny but people who get you and don’t mind the fact that you are having  terrible day and are sitting bawling in the BFI bar in the middle of the afternoon, very much looking like this:

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Are an irreplaceable treasure. Hold on to them and love them with all your might because they are worth 56 times their weight in diamonds. FACT. Extra points if they feed you miniature pasties. Triple extra bonus points if they lose their shit and wave a baby around when a famous person they fancy walks past.

I’m going to leave out the next part, because it’s horrible and gory and that’s not what this is about, but safe to say that A&E find my humour “deeply unsettling” as opposed to funny.

And then I was ok, genuinely a-okay.  I carried on with working and living as if nothing had happened, with the odd glitch here and there.

Until I wasn’t okay.

I’d had a good day, I was going to a workshop, I was having fun in the rain in London – one of my favourite things to do.

I realised I needed my oyster, (even as a crazy person I have my pass ready for the gate – take heed Match man!) and promptly realised I had been pickpocketed. I mean, I can understand stealing a travel card – but a used lipstick?!  I have cold sores, if you’re reading, Thiefy McThieverson. #PersonalHygiene.

My brain started to melt into mush, the floor started to give way. I had to lie down. I couldn’t move. The nice station guard came and made sure I was okay and opened the gate for me and gave me a leaflet explaining how to get a new card etc etc (Thanks, nice Old Street station man!)

However this was the:

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I needed to get away. That’s literally all I could think about, this was too much – I needed to get the hell outta dodge and make a new start in a new place and a new set of people around me.

And like the arse I am, I decided I would copy the shit out of Bonny Prince Charlie and run away to Skye. (I have actually always wanted to go there but not necessarily under these circumstances).

By the way, I am totally singing The Skye Boat Song here, please feel free to join in.

At this time, I was cycling so rapidly through emotions I was breathless, almost. One minute weeping, one minute livid, one minute hysterically laughing. I dumped mr TF by whatsapp (stay classy, duck), I tried to leave my job, I deleted whatsapp and blocked all texts and calls on my phone.

It was pretty terrifying, especially as I felt that this was all happening to someone else, like I was sitting next to myself observing what was going on, a helpless bystander, if you like. I am sorry to everyone on my tube and train journeys home, BTW. I must have freaked you all the chuff (get it – trains, chuff? No?…. *tumbleweed*) out.

I had also lapsed into selective mutism, so I was incapable of verbal communication – thank god for my wheel of emotions!

2016-02-15 23.43.07It’s a bit like Wheel of Fortune, only without the theme tune, or any real incentive to take part other than to find out what the crazy lady wants.

Thankfully the situation was “contained” (by Mr TF) and I managed to last until my perinatal psychiatric appointment, which had accidentally (but very thankfully) not been cancelled as it should have been.

In the next 24 hours I found three very helpful things:

  1. Mr TF (obviously);
  2. Ruby Wax’s Sane New World stage show, which has now finished but she is doing a new show, Frazzledwhich starts in a few weeks. It is very funny but really, really informative and helpful – there is a forum in the second half, which was wonderful and I am pretty sure there is in this too;
  3. Reasons to Stay Alive  by Matt Haig. I am late to the party on this one, I know but this is a beautiful book and a helpful book. I think everyone should read it and bask in its resplendent loveliness. It made me cry. With joy and its was actually me crying this time. It woke me up from this horrible dream and showed me that life isn’t always going to feel like a sandpaper bike saddle. Read it if you haven’t, please do, it deserves to be read, by you.

 

The perinatal psychiatrist was fantastic and started sorting out a crisis plan with me. She should have by rights refused to see me, given the above but she didn’t. In fact she talked with me for two hours and then told me that I was ill and she felt I needed to have an intervention, then explained what this meant. In the space of four hours, I had seen three other doctors, had a new set of medication given to me and another appointment booked for the next day.

They were wonderful. This isn’t me wanting to be political here but the NHS saved me twice in the space of 3 weeks in two very different ways. I am so grateful for this.

So here we are, on the meds and on the mend, under that watchful eye of the Community Mental Health Team and with a few more appointments for proper therapy and grief counselling.

I feel like me again and I feel a slight tinge of hope that I haven’t felt for a couple of years. I can do this, we all can. Maybe we just need to watch out for each other a bit and stop these silly colossal expectations of ourselves.

I was inspired to write this because of the experience I had and also because I watched The Not So Secret Life of The Manic Depressive, the follow up documentary to The Secret Life of the Manic Depressive, which is what raised my suspicions that I might have bipolar in the first place and realised that the more of us who speak up about our experience, the more help this will give to those in the same situation.

Thanks for listening, I don’t half go on.

 

Love,

 

Miss Tillyflop xxx

 

Beyond the Fringe

After two weeks of convalescing after having our friend the cyst removed, (he went to a better place,) I was starting to climb the walls a bit. I mean the novelty of having an operation, my very FIRST(!) wore off exactly 3 seconds after waking up from it and realising that general anaesthetic makes me vomit in a projectile fashion and that the very little sense of balance that I do have had temporarily left.

I had broken the rules about “absolute bed rest” slightly during this time, to carry out important work such as this:

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So this week was another first in the life of Tillyflop –  I went to the Edinburgh Fringe. And, dear reader, I am in love.

And not just because of this:

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It was absolutely ALIVE, bursting with crazy energy, people running from show to show (myself included) and there was just this shared feeling of good will and love. And it suited my largely nocturnal body clock perfectly.

 

I got quite excited even before we got there (which, you probably saw if you are lucky – ha!- enough to follow me on twitter.) I have only ever been as far as Leeds on the train, so I bored Chris rigid by pointing at literally everything visible from the window north of Leeds. (Although I did manage to fit in 3 episodes of RuPaul’s Drag Race prior to that!) This is quite aptly demonstrated in my attempt to capture the sign at the border:

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Skillful.

When we got there, it was even better. 

I used to go to Edinburg as a kid but never during the festival, so I had a vague recollection of it, but I had forgotten the extent of its beauty and its quirkiness.  

 

I mean:

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It’s quite picturesquare, in’t it?

Aside from this, there were the shows too – where else is it socially acceptable (or financially viable) to watch three shows in one day and then stay up meeting friends until 3am and nothing else?  It was very difficult to choose what to see, given the VAST quantity of shows on offer, so I largely plumped to see shows that I knew people in and I have to admit that I got a bit choked up with motherly pride, there for a moment (or sixty).

So it is decided: I am going to be in a show in Edinburgh next year by hook, or by crook. If anyone needs an actor/idiot for their show next year, please do bear me in mind and maybe we can share this type of joy together:

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Or maybe not.

The lil fucker

A few years ago, when I was at Drama School, one of the tutors gave a name to something that I had never had a name for before – the lil’ fucker in your head.

You know that ejit, who sits in there all day, telling you how crap you are?

Yes, this is the berk who has helped me fail my driving test no less than SEVEN times (I say helped, I did quite a good job on my own, what with my nerves and my four second attenti-

Well, this week, lil fucker has moved back in and this time he brought a subwoofer with him. I am rehearsing hard for my play (which is going to be marvellous, by the way – book here – no booking fees online – woo!) but it also invloves music and man, I have been practicing like Billy-O (who is Billy O, by the way? He had a very strong work ethic, whoever he was) and although I am far from anything approaching accomplished, I had started making less dying llama noises than when I began.

Until LF showed up that is. Sitting in rehearsals this morning, I was happily quacking along on my clarinet when suddenly, somebody sucked all of the notes out of my brain and replaced my fingers with bunches of unriped bananas. Skwark! GRRRRRRRAAAAAA! is what I suddenly started to produce.

Well, I am not having any of it and I have a little message for you, LF:

 

Eviction notice served.

Hills, Pills and Fingeraches

This week has been a bit exciting so far: Aside from annoying my neighbours with incessant clarinet pratice for The Cherry Orchard (more on that later,) I have been making a short film. (It’s almost as if I was an actor, isn’t it?!)

So let’s start right at the very beginning. If you follow me on Twitter,(and I would highly recommend that you DON’T,) you may remember me being in Dot Cotton (this is the name of a conference room, I have not been doing anything untoward to June Brown).

Me, not infesting June Brown.

Me, not infesting June Brown.

Well, aside from hanging around being starstruck by boardrooms and making hot beverages, I was actually there for a reason. I was lucky enough to take part in the Meet the Media:Broadcast Journalism event at Broadcasting House, run by Rethink Mental Health, Mind and The BBC and tackled the issue of the representation of mental illness and those of us with mental illness in broadcast journalism. (May sound a bit worthy, but when stuff like this is STILL happening, we know that the battle to end the stigma around mental illness is far from won). It was brilliant to see something like this even existing, but it was also really fascinating to see different ways of prtraying the same story.

As part of this, me and my good friend Will performed a short play Pressing The Right Buttons for Newfound Theatre, which looked at the glamorisation of celebrity suicide in the press. It went really well and as a result, a film director said that he would like to turn it into a short film and On the Edge was born.

Us performing AT THE BBC!

Us, performing AT THE BBC!

Fast forward to yesterday and Will and I are at an undisclosed location (you aren’t allowed to publically identify potential suicide spots in the UK for obvious reasons) being miked and powdered up, ready to start shooting in the unexpected, blazing sunshine. The pollen was being a nasty Nigel during our rehearsal on Monday, so we consumed most of Boots in a bid to keep it under control.

IN YOUR FACE, HAYFEVER!

Will, taking the mic.

Will, taking the mic.

We were atop a hill with an uncanny resemblence to a cliff face. But it wasn’t, it was just an undercover hill with a really good disguise and cover story. We both managed the not-as-easy-as-it-sounds walking and talking at the same time plus not falling over the edge (it was still high enough to break an arm or three) and we remembered our lines and even managed the odd burst of acting (I jest, Will is bloody brilliant, actually!)

It was amazing the difference being on location made – we’re very good at imagining things but actually being on a cliff/hill/whatever it wants to call itself does make a difference because of a) the view and b) the fact that we both have vertigo, so there is genuine fear in there, when you eventually get to see the film.

When is a cliff not a cliff?

When is a cliff not a cliff?

It was a fantastic experience and we managed to get the whole thing done in under 8 hours (which is pretty impressive going!), the crew were mega and we had the usual perks of being fed (although the food on this shoot was rather more luxorious than usual! Nom NOM indeed!)

I can’t wait to see the finished product, even if it means I have to watch myself (which is the worst part of being an actor, I think!)

Instrument of torture (see what I did there?)

Instrument of torture (see what I did there?)

Today has been a bit less glam but rewarding non the less, I made two discoveries – the cupboard where I keep my coats makes a passable rudimentary recording studio, with the use of blankets and bike lights and I spent a good two hours in there this morning, recording demos to send to people. It’s amazing how fussy you can get over these things “Oooh, I don’t like the way I said “it’s” there”. But I got it done with only a minimal pool of sweat on the cupboard floor and managed to get it sent of with only a very small amount of swearing like a particulrly angry trouper. Hoorah.

The second discovery is that I am getting rather ancient. I spent a good 6-7 hours practicing my clarinet this afternoon and I feel like I have done ten rounds with the Marine Corps. Seriously, I don’t remember it entailing this much pain!  I got to the point where I could not bend my pinky fingers any more *sob* WHEN DID I GET SO OLD?

However, on a more positive note, the music spunds more like an injured duck rather than a mortally wounded one now, so that’s good, in’t it?

If you want to see whether I manage to not die of musical related injuries, you can come see my show. IT’S PEAK, BRUV

http://www.brockleyjack.co.uk/portfolio/cherry-orchard/

TTFN xxxx

In which Misstillyflop returns and has much news!

So it’s been a while, hasn’t it!

Almost three years since I cycled to Paris, had intimate “problems” and raised tonnes of dosh for Mind (thanks to you wonderful guys – thanks!).

Since then I have done a few more cycle rides: The Diva 100 (again) and The Norwich 100 (not as flat as I had anticipated).

I bought a new companion for Lady Bikelor:

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And some other stuff  happened too:

View More: http://pauljosephphotography.pass.us/cathypluschris

 

So not much, really.

 

I decided it was time that I picked this blog back up, as much for my tenuous grip on sanity as much as anything else (is there really anyone actually reading this out there?)

I have been busy in the work departement, though. And I am currently working on a new show, The Cherry Orchard at the Jack Studio Theatre, Brockley, which runs from 15th July – 2nd August 2014.  I play the weird and wonderful Charlotta – governess, table magician and thief of old men’s hearts.

I also play the clarinet in it, which is a little bit terrifying, as I haven’t picked it up since 1995 and it often sounds like a duck has fallen down a ravine when I do practice. Having said that, we had our first musical reherasal today and it felt so wonderful to be part of an orchestra again, after NINETEEN (oh holy, holy mother of Preperation H) years’ break.

One thing I do not remember from my youth, is the amount of discomfort which comes from playing a clarinet, possibly because of my complete lack of dedication at the time to practicing longer than 15 minutes at a time, or possibly due to my current decriptude.  But I am determined, I will develop the bionic arm and lip neccesary to be the best clarinet-blower EVER.*

So if you are in town on the dates above, please feel free to pop along. Jokes aside, I am so excited to FINALLY be doing a Chekhov (Anton, not Pavel) play.

Anyway, more puffity puffing of my clarinet to do, so more from me later.

*By best, I may mean “not the worst.”