Thursday, 26 August 2010

The Sage Academy of Performing Arts - Memories

I often used to be baffled as to why an earth anybody would want to ‘blog’. I mean, what is the point in writing down all the little things that have happened to you in a day or a week or whatever. In recent years however, I have noticed how significant writing down ones thoughts can be. It is cathartic, it orders your thoughts, allows space in your mind for the next emotional or intellectual challenge you have yet to encounter and it is fun to look back on your memories.

Since teaching in Newcastle at Sage, I have found that those students who took the time to reflect on the training and workshops they had been involved in that day appeared to be more centred and well balanced in their understanding of their vocation. I found myself discussing their progress and using that open forum of discussion to inform my own practice, not just at a tutor, but artistically as well. The process was exciting and stimulating and it allowed my connection to many of my students to transcend the normal teacher-student pedagogical relationship to something far more profound. On leaving the Academy a few weeks ago, I felt a real sense of respect for my learners, some of whom are now cherished friends and people who I am certain shall remain so for many years to come. I cannot stress enough how lucky I feel to have been given the opportunity by Lucy Sage, who, informed by my long term mentor Adam Armstrong, gave me the space, time and trust to run with my ideas and it is safe to say, some of what my students achieved in my five years there is of the highest possible standard. I would like to spend this blog paying homage to The Sage Academy of Performing Arts – from my perspective.

Back in 2005, Lucy invited me to join an already established and experienced team of staff who were producing accomplished performers year after year. I was fortunate to be offered the role; such are the benefits of knowing someone who knows someone in this industry. I can remember my first day with the full-time students. My first class was with the then 2nd year students, who, amongst others, included a certain Alana Wallace, who would later appear in my first self produced and directed Edinburgh Fringe debut ‘Skitzy’ in 2007.

In my time there, many students have impressed me, some of whom have left me completely speechless with their acting ability. Young performers who act with such maturity and intelligence, one is left wandering what more can be done, expect do nudge them in the right direction and hope that the right people see them at the right time. It has worked for some inspired young people. The likes of Maddie Bowden, Kate Soulsby, Phil Bollam, Alex Jarvis, Laura MacGrady, Maeve O’Sullivan and Katie Todd are all people that I take a great pride in having taught on the full time course.

Then there are the part timers, the Foundation group, the Saturday and Sunday classes and more recently my evening workshop group, who range in age from 13 to 22, which makes for an extremely eclectic life experience pool, let alone performance experience. Some of my students have progressed to a stage where they are able to employ me as a performer for their own professional work, something which fills me with so much pride. To think that I might have played some part in their professional development. Scott Ampleford and Caden Elliott to name but two.

I would like to spend time naming all those students and tutors who have collectively touched my life during my time in Newcastle, but it would take a long time, and they know who they are – In particular I would just like to thank Jess Tibble, Amy Douglass and Rosie Marriott for playing such a huge part in my goodbye parties - Thank you for the great send-off gifts including the file of thank you messages, the framed photos, the cakes, the other food, the evening at the all-you-can eat buffet, the award for ‘Most inspirational’.

The most difficult thing I have ever had to do professionally was to make the decision to leave them behind. Let me just say this; everyone at the Sage Academy, past and present – you will always be with me!

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Monday the 23rd of August 2010, 8:45pm

So much to catch up on, it’s been a very full few days here in beautiful Queensland! We’ve caught up with Laura Prentice, a well travelled individual who we enjoyed lunch and several coffees with before, sadly, she had to make her way back to her office at 36,000 feet with Emirates. Such a novel thing, seeing a friend on the other side of the world, especially someone who had spent our wedding reception with us so recently back home in Norfolk.

On Saturday, we took a trip out to Brisbane’s neighbouring hills to visit a wildlife park. Set in a forest, close to ‘Enoggera Reservoir’, the forest park is home to many of Australia’s famous bush wildlife and for just a few dollars, you can get up close to wallabies, snakes, birds and even a platypus! We had a coffee and a packed lunch by the reservoir and took in the sights and sounds of the area during a 5 km stroll. It was starting to feel like a real holiday by this point – not that it hadn’t been until then, but with so much to organise with regards to the wedding and accommodation and dry-cleaning of wedding attire etc, much of our time had been full until this day!

Mel and I travelled up into the Tamborine Mountains yesterday after we hired a car, in search of an area famed for its wine and European influences. We were not disappointed as our first port of call was an eatery which boasted not only a European menu, but specifically a Dutch desert menu, cooked by Dutch settlers – Poffetjes, lightly sprinkled with icing sugar, dipped into maple syrup and spiced apple pie with clotted cream!

The main streets that surround the upper reaches of Tamborine are laced with typical middle class interests, such as local art galleries and collectables; one shop of interest was a German Grandfather Clock warehouse which had many clocks on display ranging vastly in price with an average clock setting the purchaser back around $15,000. To my and Mel’s taste, most were seemingly well crafted but extremely detailed, which meant that they were too busy, give me a simple Edwardian time piece any day!

After a short while meandering around the shops, Mel and I decided to investigate something very exciting – The Tamborine Mountain Glow-worm Caves – we have always wanted to see such a natural phenomena and we were not disappointed. The cave itself was man made, apparently by the same company who made the Polar Bear cave at Sea World. After a brief introduction by our guide, we were led into a 20 metre long cave, full of thousands of blue stars, shining down from the roof of the cave. Truly beautiful, another first for us and well worth the $11 entrance fee!

Later in the afternoon, we went in search of one of the look outs which were easily accessible to tourists by car at the very tip of the mountain range. We hoped to find a nice view by which we could BBQ some of the provisions we had procured from a local supermarket. We were not disappointed. The view from the top of ‘Knoll Section’ was one of the most epic I have ever had the privilege to view – videos are available on our Youtube site for your viewing pleasure!

We decided to book into a B&B last night as we knew that we would be staying at altitude for the night. Mel managed to find a lovely place called ‘Tambaridge’ on ‘’. A clever bit of thinking which saved us over $100 on the booking fee. That’s my girl! Built on the sunset side of the mountain range and run by a lovely gay couple, Robert and Kevin, we were able to enjoy a double Spa bath, giant bed, lots of different tea and coffee, our own balcony and as many DVD’s as we wanted to choose from to enjoy whilst drinking our tea in bed. All in all it was quite an overwhelming amount of luxury after the nights spent in our tent immediately prior to this. We would like to thank Robert and Kevin for their hospitality, and the lovely continental breakfast they served us this morning on our balcony!

Mel was due to go up in a Tiger Moth today, but as we packed the car to drive to the airport strip the rain began in earnest and to this hour it has not really stopped, so as expected, they have re-scheduled the flight which will now take place this Wednesday, the 25th, at 12pm! As the rain had scuppered our hope of spending the day enjoying outdoor activities in the sun, we resigned ourselves to a trip around ‘Surfers Paradise’ on the Gold Coast. It turned out to be a nice afternoon spent together walking up and down the enormous beach from which the area takes its name. We saw people fishing from a break wall and the beach and all of whom were successful – another contrast to life in the UK – you would be lucky to catch anything off the beaches back home these days!

After 2 hours wandering together on the beach, Mel and I touched base with Savannah again to check when she would be free to catch up as she had mentioned that we should meet up today. We arranged in a roundabout way to meet tomorrow on her island - ‘Russell Island’ sometime after 12pm.

We searched for a campsite on our map and once again Mel’s impressive eagle eye has led us to a gem of a town, and a peach of a campsite. ‘Jacobs Well’ is a perfectly formed little town, just 20 minutes drive from Brisbane, but a world away from the fast paced, high priced city. We have pitched up on the town’s campsite, and 50 yards from our tent is the local Tavern, which boasts a wide range of food and beers at half the price of the city. The town has everything that you need to exist including a bottle shop, pizza and kebab shop, grocery store, doctors, bakery and coffee, and an Asian takeaway, incidentally where we enjoyed some great noodles this evening! It is surrounded by the Pacific Ocean and despite the rain; we are really enjoying the fine hospitality of the area and expect to spend 2 nights here.

We both miss Millhouse lots and we talked about him a periods throughout the day today. I suppose it will get easier. News from Holland suggests that he is enjoying life with Johanna and Henry. I spoke to mum on the phone the other day, just briefly, but it was good to hear her voice and to learn that everybody at home is doing ok. Term at Sage Academy will start soon – I hope everyone there is doing ok, I miss the students particularly.

Just over a week until our wedding, we have decided to rent the car for an extra couple of days to ensure that we have transport up to the Botanic Gardens on the wedding day!

Sunday, 22 August 2010

Beached As

We met up with Laura the other day in Brissie - she gave us a top You Tube tip - check it out!

Saturday, 21 August 2010

Rainbow lorikeet

A friendly Cockatoo we met at Mount Cootha!

We went to Mount Cootha the other day to find the perfect spot for our wedding ceremony and found this little dude while we were there!!
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Friday, 20 August 2010

Savanah and memories 2004!

Hello all, I just wanted to take this opportunity to say how great it was to catch up with our old friend Savannah Keegan last night, and to meet her boyfriend - a very nice guy whose name escapes me due to the lack of short term memory that impacts all those with receding hairlines!!

Back in 2004, just before Mel and I arrived in Brisbane, we visited a town called Newcastle, which is in New South Wales - you can see it on the map, just above Sydney. Now, on one particular day, we visited an Internet cafe in the town, attempting to keep up with friends via email etc, bearing in mind that there were no social networking sites back in those days, black and white TV etc! The owner of the Internet cafe was a very congenial character who was very interested to learn of my previous experiences as an actor and a acting coach and by the end of our conversation he had enlisted me to come with him to a town named Scone which is in the Hunter valley, to judge a Bush Poetry and Yarns competition. I was flattered and Mel and I were excited to have the opportunity to experience some real Aussie culture and to get away from the typical backpacker trails worn by the feet of so many over the years who think that to travel is to go with other backpackers to backpacker bars and get drunk and then to move onto the next backpacker bar and get drunk and see precisely 0% of the real country and people during their visit. OK, rant over.

We joined the nice chap at his home and he drove us to Scone, telling us all about his role within the setup of this competition and how my being external and presumably impartial, this would benefit the competition which could get a bit rowdy if people felt that they were being wronged by any of the judges.

On our arrival at Scone I was introduced to a man who goes by the name of 'Blue, the Shearer'. He is DJ on ABC Radio - which is BBC Australia, and he took us under his wing as we visited local schools in the area and I did workshops with the kids, who it has to be said were all lovely, polite and well turned out - where did we go wrong in the UK?!

On the evening of the competition, Mel and I were checked into a local Hotel. Hotels in rural Australia are more often above pubs and this was no exception. It was a comfortable and rustic room with a window which looked out onto the typically wide township road which was flanked with privately owned shops, including a wine and bottle shop, a blacksmiths and convenience store. We had dinner with some other famous bush poets and then it was time to go and judge.

I was invited to take my seat on stage-left with the other 2 judges, Mel sat nearby with a good view of the stage and me. Blue was compering and it was he who stepped up in front of the gathered masses, I estimated around 300 including local tv and radio and began the proceedings by announcing: "Ladies and Gentleman, it gives me great pleasure to welcome you all here this evening to the annual Bush Poetry and Yarns competition here in Scone, I also delighted to welcome our judges and contestants for the show this evening and they include an unfamiliar face to you all, he's an actor and a bit of an entertainer too, his names Charlie, and I don't know he is going to do for you tonight, but I know your going to enjoy it. Put your hands together for Charlie."

Much applause and expectant looks from the people followed. At the same time, my head spontaneously combusted with a combination of shock, nervous tension and the feeling that I may have in actual fact began to soil myself.

I stood up and walked up two steps to the makeshift stage, preparing with every beat of my heart for the inevitable lynching that would surely follow when the folks there realised that not only had this 'Pommie' (Prisoner of Mother England as we are called down here) come to judge there show, but he doesn't have any idea how to entertain an audience!

I searched my brain for anything to say, anything that might just get me through this terrible moment in my life.

"Hi, thanks umm, Blue, wow" long pause, all eyes on me...
"I am delighted to be here with you in sunny Scone, err"
The next 5 minutes are a blur, but apparently I told a few jokes which seemed to go ok and I was able to take my seat with the other judges and begin the real work of judging the competition.

Bush Poetry and Yarn telling is a craft which has evolved over the 200 years that the white man has inhabited this immense country, to entertain each other round the campfire during the long hot nights, people would create poems and tales about all sorts of things to entertain each other. You can find all sorts of them online, all different, all fascinating examples of a new world's ever evolving culture. I watched and laughed my way through several of these often hilarious performances until the favourite stood up - the man they called big Tony.

Big Tony began to tell the audience of his drinking problem and how his wife had warned him that if he was ever to get drunk and drive home again and get pulled by the cops then she would kick him out. On one particular evening, a traveller was in the bar, big Tony was drunk, he had noticed that the traveller had not been drinking alcohol all evening, just coke. Big Tony and his mates asked the guy if he would be good enough to give them a lift home and the traveller agreed. They left the bar and stumbled over to his car.

Some minutes later they were speeding along on the highway in the middle of the 'bush' when Big Tony decided top ask the traveller why he didn't drink alcohol. "I hate it." said the traveller.
"I just don't like alcohol."
"So, you're a reformed alcy then?"
"No, I just don't like to mix stuff you know"
"What are you on about mate?"
"I have been taking LSD and it doesn't go well with beer"
A long silence descended over the car. Big Tony and his mates looked at each other uneasily.
"Er, LSD? You have been taking acid?"
"Yes, I have, I love it!! I love LSD, I am the best driver in the world. I can fly, I will NEVER DIE!!" - At this moment, back in the real world of the competition, Big Tony lent over his mic, let out the most bizarre groan, threw his arms up in the air and fell off the back of the stage. In a moment so similar to the death of Tommy Cooper to be called a coincidence, he had suffered a massive heart attack. Fortunately, with the competition being populated with almost everybody from the township, a local doctor and a nurse were able to save Big Tony and some hours later he was sitting up a local hospital somewhere asking if he could have a beer!

Needless to say, the experience is not something easily forgotten.

Some weeks later, when Mel and I were in employment at QPAC here in Brisbane, we met Savannah. She quickly became a firm favourite of both Mel and myself, with her own rather intense way of describing things which to other people may have seemed benign, but not to Savannah.

One day, whilst on a shift together, I was about to tuck into a sandwich, delighted to have the chance to enjoy a hassle free snack before the public turned up to see the show. Savannah had clearly been watching me open up the packet, she felt compelled to say something. "STOP"
"Eh, what? What the hell have I done?"
"Don't eat that, but!" (but means dude)
"What the hell are you talking about Savannah? It's a sanga, not cyanide."
"Do you have any idea what white bread does to you?" Savannah's eyes had widened to the point where I actually believed they may explode if my next answer were not sufficient enough to appease the pressure building up behind her corneal lenses. A similar feeling to that which I experienced walking up onto the stage at Scone enveloped me.
"I have no idea what you mean."
"Jesus, but - if you eat white bread, it'll clog you up like a baarstard - you'll never crap again Charlie - NEVER, CRAP, AGAIN! It's not good for you mate!"
I decided not to eat the sandwich, after all, I didn't want to end up with the same affliction which lead to poor old Big Tony having his heart attack on stage. In fact, so severe was the glare I received from Savannah, I have been reluctant to eat white bread ever since.

Yes, it's fair to say, Savannah had left a big impression, so when Mel and I got the chance to meet up with her again yesterday evening and drive up to a look-out over the city together, it was something to cherish. The views up there were sublime, so here's to you Miss Keegan!

Thursday, 19 August 2010

Great Aussie Movie 18th August 2010

Mel and I went to a local cinema this evening, called the Tribal Theatre. We watched a film called 'Animal Kingdom'. For all you old Neighbours fans out there, it has Guy Pearce in it as a good detective who is trying to nail down some bank robbers in Melbourne. I cannot possibly do the film justice in a few sentences, but I imagine it will be out in the UK at all good art house places and my advice would be - go and see it. It is pretty full on, but gritty and real with some quite impressive character acting. Here is a link to the YouTube commercial for you...

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

18th August 2010 Brisbane, 10:15am

18th August 2010 Brisbane, 10:15am

Australia!!! It is so good to be back here. Hong Kong is now in the memory bank and after a completely sleepless 24 hour journey, we set up camp in our old haunt here in magnificent Brisbane. The sun is shining, not too hot, 24 – 26c during the day and cool at night. The flight into the city airport was breathtaking, having landed in Sydney, watching the boats gliding under the harbour bridge and the Opera House from a few thousand feet up, we then flew domestic Qantas for 2 hours up to Brisbane, with the coastline to our right and the Blue Mountains to our left, we saw Bondi Beach, Byron Bay and miles upon miles of perfect turquoise ocean breaking onto white sandy beaches. Had we have crashed then, it would be safe to say there are worse ways to die.

The first thing that strikes you about Australia is the sunlight. It is so clear and clean and the sky is so blue, something which we rarely see in the Northern Hemisphere any more due to the climate and the pollution. But when you consider that in the UK there are 70 million people and that Australia has just 20 million and is 20 times the size of our little island, then its not difficult to see how they maintain such pristine skies and beaches and forests.

The bird life in Brisbane is varied over here as well, the crows even squawk in Aussie accents – it’s true – remember the crabs in ‘Finding Nemo’ shouting “Hey, Heey” – a bit like that! There are doves with mohican's outside our tent, brush turkeys who skirt the perimeter of the campsite, large inquisitive ibis, rainbow laureates, galahs – yes I know – “Flaming Galahs!!” – cockatoos, minah birds, in the evenings there are giant flying foxes which stink of wee, although apparently that smell is actually the B.O., they haven't all been wetting themselves!

It hasn’t all been roses mind you, without sleep and with all our luggage, Mel and I didn’t have enough energy to make it into the city yesterday, we pitched our tent, bought some provisions and went to bed for a 15 hour sleep.

The supermarkets have a more impressive selection of products than I remember from our last trip here in 2004. More vegi stuff, including Quorn, which wasn’t here back in the day. Very cheap meat, so I was happy. Other stuff is more expensive mind you. A good loaf of bread can set you back as much as $5 and theres $1.7 to the £1. Swings and roundabouts as far as pricing goes, fruit is relatively cheap. Beer is $8 per pint mind you, something I found out last night as we ventured into town to meet a friend of ours, Laura Prentice, who works for Emerites Air, which means the world is very much her play ground – don’t envy her the Jet-Lag though, not after what we have been through in recent weeks! Laura was so tired in fact that she didn’t show up for drinks, so we rearranged for Friday when we’ll do lunch.

Something else which has struck me about Australia is how friendly everyone is, each person we have met has been friendly, including the bus drivers, which is quite a shock given the experiences we have all suffered on the buses of the UK.

Then off course theres the lingo:

Aussie - English

"That's fackin Sik Kant!" - "That sounds rather nice pal."
"She'll be rite!" - "That will be absolutely fine."
"Strewth!" - "Oh."
"Fack me sideways!" - "That's surprising."
"Just goin fora sqirt rand the dunny" - "I'm just just popping in to spend a penny."
"Fancy a root?" - "Would you like yo pop in for 'coffee'?"

Plans for next few days include keeping this up to date, checking out the official wedding venue, eating Vegemite, meeting up with old friends, whale watching, Mel's going up in a Tiger Moth, surfing in Byron Bay, getting a tan, getting married, staying a 5 star boutique Hotel - called the Emporium, Brisbane, if you want to check it out ( going to Steve Irwin's Australia Zoo ( "Strewth, that's a beauty of a crock mate!!" - and that's just for starters!!!!

"Catch ya soon mate!"

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Hong Kong Nights 13th August 2010

13th August 2010, sometime during the night, Hong Kong.

Me in Kowloon Park
Great Food
Angry Terrapins!!

Booth Lodge is a Hotel run by the Salvation Army, it is situated in the middle of Kow Loon and it is our new home for the next few nights. We arrived in the wee small hours of yesterday and caught a bus into the city, number A21, very efficient and well air-conditioned, which, by the way is a God send, because it is 33c outside! We left our luggage in the lobby as we weren’t able to get into our room before 2pm and decided to buy a drink and find somewhere to drink it. That somewhere turned out to be Kow Loon Park where we spent the next few hours feeling grotty due to the Jet Lag and the 2 days solid travelling we had just concluded. We sat by this amazing pond in the centre of the park. The water was almost completely clear; accept for one very scared looking goldfish that was being chased around by rather aggressive looking terrapins! We took refuge under a pagoda, or rather I took refuge under a pagoda and Mel sat in the sun, her poor ankles had swollen up to the size of prize marrows after the long flight. She seems a bit better this evening; she is sitting writing letters to some friends and family on our bed. I am sat at our rooms desk, looking out on the aw inspiring skyline that is so characteristic of Hong Kong. I’m also feeling rather full as we ate at the nearby night market tonight, large portions of seafood curry, broccoli with garlic, deep fried tofu and rice!

Me and Mel in the Cable Car
We spent the best art of today travelling up to the Po Lin Monastery, which is situated at the summit of one of the mountains near Hong Kong city, on the island of Lantau. The best way to reach there is by the Ngong Ping Cable Car which spans 5.7kms and gives you amazing views of the city, airport, bays and islands, as well as keeping you cool as it is well ventilated. Mel and I chose to ride in one of the traditional cars; there was a more expensive crystal floored car for those with a rather more fearless approach to sight seeing.

We walked round the monastery, had a very nice vegetarian lunch there and also walked up to the Tian Tan Buddha, a triumph of contemporary bronze sculpture which looks over the entire area. The views were some of the most memorable I have ever seen.

At eight o’clock this evening, after popping home to shower and change, we went down to the harbor, stopping at Starbucks for a quick frapacino right outside the famous concert hall which I performed in as a chorister with St Johns College back in the early nineties. We took in Hong Kong’s famous ‘Symphony of Lights’ show. The sound of an electronic symphony is played out over the city and giant sky scrapers rhythmically expel lights and lasers in all different directions for the amusement of people like us.

So, the 14hr coach and ferry ride from Amsterdam to London, followed by the 11 hour plane journey to Hong Kong are stating to feel so worth the effort, especially as my sister has just texted me to say that it is raining on her birthday at home – sorry George!!

We took Millhouse to Holland after the reception at the weekend, I drove us to Dover, we caught the ferry to Calais, then Johanna drove me, Mel, Millhouse and all of our baggage to Woudenberg, near Utrecht in Holland to her home where we spent 36 hours or so before embarking on another crazy journey! It was very sad to say goodbye to our dog, I hope he is happy in Holland. We have every intention of getting him back someday; I guess I should say watch this space as far he is concerned. Johanna loves him and he has two cats to chase there; Jack and Sophie. And when drunkard Henry arrives back from a week long music festival in Hungary, then he will have someone to run around with too.

Tales from the wedding at 30,000 feet!

11th August, 2010, 3am Hong Kong Time

Anyway, back to the reception. Once the dance was done, folks took their seats and I stood up to make a speech, mostly thanking family and friends for the support and toasting those who had made the journey to what my step-mother Angela rather touchingly refers to as “the end of the known world”. However, the speech also included the tale of how Mel and I actually came to find ourselves in this position. But before I tell it, I must just offer a little aside to the story at hand to let you know that I am currently sitting sipping VB next door to Mel at 30,000 feet in one of Qantas finest premier economy class seats – it’s not a bad place to write I can tell you – and the service is quite special up here too! So, as I was about to tell you… Some years ago, back in the early naughties, I was at drama school in London. At the weekends my best man Tim would invite me over to stay at his house with his then girlfriend Ann. These weekends usually turned out to be somewhat debaucherous, full of semi lucid moments clutching at the edge of sanity as we sought to test our young bodies and minds to the limit as young people do. On one such weekend, I was sitting in the recovery position on Tim’s sofa, which at the time felt like a womb when something caught my eye. It was a photograph, sitting on the table nearest me. In this photo was the image of the most beautiful girl I had ever seen, shapely, blonde, wearing a white dress and clutching a handbag. “Wow, who is that girl?” I enquired. “Oh, that’s Mel” came the reply, “She’s my best friend from up in Scotland, at Uni in Newcastle just now”. “I’m going to marry that girl” I said. And hand on heart, I had never before, nor since, uttered those words, and now here we are on the flight to Hong Kong, before our wedding in Brisbane.

The food at the reception was really nice, everyone ate more than they could comfortably stomach, and we had so many different things on offer to satisfy even the most challenging of pallets, except that the chef had forgotten to provide sufficient food for our two vegans, Sam and Elly, something we were a bit cheesed off about as we had been very specific with our French chef Laurent. I spoke to him after Mel alerted me to the issue – “Laurent, what’s happened to the vegan food?” This question was greeted with a famous response; mastered by all Parisians the world over, it’s a look which encompasses a great number of statements, all carefully choreographed to not only make the Parisian seem innocent in the situation, but bizarrely and very annoyingly, it makes the receiver of the look feel guilty! It is a shrug over the shoulders, a la Thierry Henry, followed by a deep exhalation and a jutting of the lower part of the jaw, followed by the baby who has just had his dummy taken away by you face – clinical finishing! “Errrrr, we did not errr discusse the, the vegans Charlie.” “Laurent I was very specific about the vegans.” That bloody shrug again! You get the picture!

Needless to say, the rest of the reception was superb, the speeches by Craig, Phillippa and my dad – copies of which will retrospectively be included I hope – were well received and the Ceilidh went down a storm, as did the cake and a little Chinese Lantern ceremony out on the lawn accompanied by lots of sparklers. Many drank too much – especially my new brother in law who had to be carried back to the B & B by Claire and Tom, friends of ours from Hull. Fortunately both Claire and Tom know what Henry is like when he’s off his face, and they still love him!

There is more I could mention, but I must move on...

Holland, Wedding tales 9th August 2010

9th August 2010, 6:10pm, Woundenberg, Holland
It’s been two days since our wedding reception in Neatishead, Norfolk. I’m sitting in the front room of Mel’s mothers house which sits in a quiet superb, I am sat next to Mel on the sofa, Millhouse the greyhound beside us and Johanna, Mel’s mother, pottering around in the kitchen and garden.
Our Wedding Reception was perfect. Nearly all those invited came to the event, the food, wine, music and company were spot on and as for my bride, she looked stunning in her dress. She had her hair in curls with beautiful flowers knitted in, donated to her by her absent friend Olga. I also had a button hole to match, so thanks to Olga for those! I was wearing a suit, as expected I suppose. I had considered a kilt, but none of the bridal shops in Newcastle-upon-Tyne thought we could possibly afford theirs, so I went to a well known high street department store and let me tell you, “this isn’t just any suit, this is an M & S suit.” and the service I received in there was simply amazing!

Mel arrived at the reception surrounded by her good friends and confidants at 4:30pm. Many thanks to Lucy, Rachel, Johanna, Henry and Mandy for escorting her. Almost all our guests had arrived and took their places around our dance floor for our first dance - Israel Kamakawiwo'ole’s 'Somewhere over the rainbow'.

I caught sight of Mel just as she walked through the main entrance to the hall. I was surrounded by friends and family but Mel was all I could see. We held hands, kissed and danced together. I had to hold back the tears which were threatening to flow, had I not have done I think I would have been a complete mess. There is no more beautiful sight than a bride on her wedding day and when it’s your own; as those who have been lucky enough to have experienced the moment themselves would surely testify, it takes your breath away. You could have knocked me over with a feather.

Now, as I understand it, the traditional way of doing things is to get married before the wedding reception. Mel and I are doing it rather differently. Our wedding reception happened before we tie the knot, that is coming much later; on the 1st of September, up in the botanic gardens on Mount Couther which overlooks the cosmopolitan city scape of Brisbane, a place very close to both my and Mel’s hearts as we lived there for a while back in 2004, becoming stalwarts of the Queensland Performing Arts Centre (QPAC) crew of that spring season. We shared such fantastic and enchanting experiences during our time there. The most notable was a road trip that we organized to watch the sunrise from the top of Mount Warning. There were 19 of us on the trip, all staff and friends from QPAC representing 7 different nationalities. We all met up in the car park at the theatre, drove a couple of hundred k’s to the foot of the mountain, where we embarked a very steep climb to the summit – the prize, to be the first people in the Western Hemisphere to witness the sunrise – amazing!!

The day we left Newcastle 29th July 2010

July 29th, 2010, 12:45pm

The house is empty, the bags are packed, we shall soon fill the van and make tracks…

There is just time for one final look round, through the shell of a house we shall not call home again. The kitchen, empty but for the white goods, donated to a new family, mother father and baby, they can make use of them now. All other rooms are clear and clean. If walls truly do have ears and those that follow the ability to hear, then tales of our lives within shall be shared. If not, then let the memory of our existence here disappear, like the smoke from of well laid fire, drifting away, up into the sky to become mere clouds, indiscriminate, encompassed by the countless others whose stories were not told.

My name is Charlie Hindley and this is the story of what dreams may come for me, my fiancĂ© Mel Schofield and our greyhound Millhouse as we embark on our journey to the other side of the world together. We are to be married in Brisbane, Queensland on the 1st of September at 2 pm. First, we have got to get there. It’s 1pm and we’ve locked the door and now it’s time to leave. You are so very welcome to join us on our journey and I hope that you do, best get moving!

Last night we enjoyed drinks with some of our friends at the Cluny, down in the Ouseburn Valley. It was great to see so many turn up, given that it was a school night. The last thing I can remember as Mel and I turned to each other on Byker bridge and headed home to spend our last night together at Shaftesbury Grove, was the sad faces of our friends who we are leaving behind. Caden and Katie were standing at the taxi rank, waving us off, Fran walked away in the other direction and it was over. No more Curating at the Biscuit, no more teaching at Sage or acting on stage – we were finally on our way.

We’ve been looking forward to this for so long, planning and saving and packing and Ebaying our possessions. Over the next week we will visit every member of our family not including Mel’s Gran, we visited her last week in Bradford and said our good byes, she wished us all the best and thrust a few extra pounds into our hands before waving us off. Over the next 12 days we will travel all over England – Lincolnshire to visit my mother Charlotte – Cambridgeshire to visit my sister Georgina (George as she is known) and her husband Steve and their baby Oscar – To London to see artist friend Mycheal Barrett and some of the sights – To Cambridge to see friends Ella, Tim, Pete and Debs – To Norfolk where we shall have our pre-wedding reception at the Victory Hall in Neatishead and visit my father Nigel, his wife Angela, Uncle Rod and Aunt Margret, my brother Eugene (Euge) and his family including Ellamae, Elliott and his wife Fiona, my grandmother (Nanny) Joan and the many others who will be attending our wedding reception.