Ah, Wendy. Wendy West.
What can I say about Wendy that won’t incur the Wrath of Khan.
You see, Wendy and I have an honest and frank relationship with one another.
Quite often she says Tomato, I say Potato.
But a healthy difference of opinion is a good thing. Right?
She often calls me “grippy” (adjective, grip·pi·er, grip·pi·est. Chiefly Scot. stingy; avaricious.) which I take as a term of endearment, but I fear my optimism is misplaced on that front.
She was referring to my handling of the financial management of Forth Children’s Theatre. Not to my speed of approach to the bar. Or perhaps she wasn’t?
But, the truth of the matter, regardless of our robust discussions that frequent our times together, is that she is an amazing human being, with an amazing family who I know just as well, and love just as much, as I do her.
We met at Forth Children’s Theatre.
She a parent, me the Chair.
I quickly spotted her potential for our board and managed to talk her into joining us and to exercise magnificent governance onto our historically fairly relaxed committee proceedings.
Her energy, enthusiasm, insight and good humour, laced with brilliant attention to detail, were to prove transformational for an organisation that always meant well but occasionally fell a little short on the difficult stuff.
But it’s beyond the boardroom table that Wendy and I grew our friendship. Rumbustious, hilarious and brilliantly honest.
She’s an amazing dancer, as I was to find out when Jeana and I joined her in a tap dancing class where she, the Margot Fonteyn of the room, contrasted amusingly with my Peter Boyle (The Monster in Young Frankenstein).
Anyone who knows Wendy knows she is a magnanimous supporter of the arts, and has recently worked with the excellent Lung Ha Theatre company. She is married to a Professor of Piping. THE Professor of Piping and her son and daughter have both inherited awesome musical and theatrical talents from her and Gary.
She’s just a really good egg, all round.
I’ve missed her during lockdown.
So, without further ado.
My favourite author or book
The book that made a huge impact on me is The Testament of Gideon Mack by James Robertson. The story of a contemporary Scottish minister who doubts the existence of God. Really thought provoking and truly beautiful writing. It actually stopped me reading for a while because I just couldn’t quite get into another book for quite some time afterwards.
The book I’m reading
Girl, Women, Other by Bernardine Evaristo I started it a while ago and put it down, this has reminded me to pick it up again!
The book I wish I had written
Winnie the Pooh – it has given pleasure to so many generations and it is timeless.
The book I couldn’t finish
I always thought I had to really finish a book – once you start and all that. Then one day, when I was really plodding through a book I had the sudden realisation that I could just close it and put it down. I did that and nothing terrible happened! Since then, I have become much more discerning. I couldn’t tell you what that book was – it was tosh, so I put it down!
The book I’m ashamed I haven’t read
Well the fact that I have watched more of the classics as TV costume dramas rather than indulge myself in the words on the page doesn’t make me ashamed so much as determined to put right. I have a fine collection sitting in the bookcase waiting for just the right time.
My favourite film
Isn’t everyone’s The Sound of Music? Well, maybe not, but this is certainly a firm old favourite that never fails to endear! That aside though, I love so many films but to pick one, I would have to go for Cinema Paradiso as being a long standing favourite (director’s cut that is). The warmth, the angst and the beautiful scenery all set to Ennio Morricone’s simply sublime musical score. The beautiful friendship between Toto and Alfredo is heart warming right until the end. The Cinema Paradiso is the beating heart of the community – how nice!
My favourite play
This is hard, but I would have to go for Brian Cox and Bill Patterson in The Royal Lyceum Theatre’s production of Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot. It made such a lasting impression on me – I couldn’t quite believe how thoroughly compelling it could be watching two guys waiting around and nothing much happening. It was both funny and really quite serious in equal measure. Strange how things just strike a chord and claim a wee piece of your heart.
My favourite podcast
I like the Guardian Today in Focus – after Mark recommended it, but have also enjoyed listening to Brene Brown, Unlocking Us – she has really interesting guests including Barack himself, but lots of others too.
The box set I’m hooked on
The box set that is a winner for me is The Handmaid’s Tale, so compelling and terrifying. Based on Margaret Atwood’s novel, the series travels through the horrors of the dystopian society of Gilead and plays out struggles of power and oppression. A bizarre survival of the fittest that sees misogyny played out in its truest form but also in the shape of women against women. Hard to watch and recently compared by some to the America that Trump was striving for?
My favourite TV series
Ooooh, I love Killing Eve – Villanelle is brilliant! I really enjoyed Italy Unpacked – Italian chef Georgio Locatelli and English art critic Andrew Graham-Dixon, a programme exploring Italy’s art, culture and cuisine. Just beautiful to sit and watch on a Friday evening after rehearsals with glass of red in hand! It makes me want to go there, it makes me realise I know nothing!
I also enjoy the drama of Line of Duty, but I think the last series I watched that really hooked me was Greyzone, a Swedish/Danish thriller that was just so compelling. It is essentially about the events leading up to a terror attack and is tense stuff, in fact, it is ‘hold your breath’ tense stuff at times. Great strong female lead in Birgitte Hjort Sørensen as a gutsy and smart Danish engineer. Complex emotions though – clever how you end up liking the perpetrator… I do love watching tv in a foreign language with English subtitles – I rather fancy I’m getting the hang of a new language by the end of things…. alas, never quite happens!
My favourite piece of music
I am not sure I have one single piece of music. It’s very mood driven for me, although I never tire of Keengalee by The Chair – a cheery go to piece of music particularly on car journeys that I just never want to end – once more, once more!
My favourite dance performance
Ghost Dances choreographed by Christopher Bruce for Rambert. I saw it in the early 80s and was mesmerised. I saw the revival a few years ago and it mesmerised me again! Haunting and hopeful all at one time. The dance shows courage and determination in the face of oppression and although it represents the horrors of the Pinochet coup, it is sadly sorelevant today. I love how dance allows you to create your own meaning because you interpret the movement without the presence of any words to channel your reactions and emotions. Danced to traditional folk music, this piece never fails to move me.
The Last film/music/book that made me cry
The lyric I wish I’d written
Ok, so swithered over admitting this… I realise I don’t really properly listen to lyrics…(I hear Mark scoff very loudly. (No, not at all , neither do I. Ed.) In my defence, I tend to listen to the music and my mind wanders and I get a bit lost in my imagination…. So I don’t really have any that I could say I wish I’d written…confession over!
The song that saved me
Don’t think I have one…
The instrument I play
Well, being surrounded by awfully talented folk, I keep my minimal achievements with playing the clarsach quiet! Taken up as an adult, I enjoyed the beautiful sounds of the dancing strings – very hard to make a horrible noise unless it is terribly badly out of tune. These days, I enjoy doing a little accompaniment to traditional tunes in the parlour with a friendly nod on when to change chords! No public performances for sure!
The instrument I wish I’d learned
The piano. I also pictured myself dancing about playing the fiddle, but that didn’t quite transpire. Huge sighs of relief all round I am sure!
If I could own one painting it would be
Joan Eardley’s work. I love the Glasgow tenement children chalk drawings with their grubby wee faces, and her wild seascapes she painted whilst she lived in Catterline, Aberdeenshire. This self-portrait is just beautiful.
The music that cheers me up
Anything I can move to – The Penguin Café Orchestra, Abba. Duncan Chisholm on the fiddle for more reflective moods – he plays a mean slow air. Trad music and should also say, but actually mean it … I do love the stirring sound of a pipe band. Ok, so quite eclectic!
The place I feel happiest
I am happiest when the car is pointing north – I love getting to Ullapool and waiting on the ferry to the Isle of Lewis. Beautiful, remote, with big skies, huge oceans and great friends with whisky…
My guiltiest cultural pleasure
Musical theatre! Not that I feel guilty about liking it, but some people sniff at it! Come from Away is my very favourite for the moment, it is mood lifting, energy boosting and just a very human story. Properly funny lyrics and great music too! I get emotional at the thought of the sheer unquestioning kindness demonstrated by the Newfoundlanders – this is a tale of gratitude, friendship and humanity.
I’m having a fantasy dinner party, I’ll invite these artists and authors
Norman MacCaig – so I can hear him recite his poetry
Barack and Michelle Obama
And I’ll put on this music
Hugh Laurie in the background playing the piano and singing then the Penguin Cafe Orchestra for dessert
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