Several years of books blogging have taught me one thing: I can never, ever predict which entries will provoke the most and best response. Hanging out the Washing is the prime example of a post that I truly thought would be of no interest to anyone but me, and turned out to be one of my most-loved, most shared, and most commented on. As it goes, everyone likes washing lines, and they all had great suggestions for further reading.
Then there's the whole question of bed jackets, and posts and comments that are an endless source of joy to me and many more.
Wintle’s Wonders – an obscure Noel Streatfeild children’s book – was another winner. Half of those loving the post were the discerning readers who knew that although her Ballet Shoes is iconic and untouchable, Wonders is an intriguing and more real story, with one of the great slaps in all fiction (Hilary, we love you).
The other half – with perhaps some overlap – were those who recognized the sewing pattern I used to illustrate Rachel’s audition dress: they had made it, or their mother had, they had worn it and loved it in their youth.
What could be more satisfying for a books/clothes blogger than such a reaction?
This: after reading a ballet book for grown ups (by Noel Streatfeild, by coincidence, Pirouette, written under her Susan Scarlett name, blogpost last Friday) I remembered and looked at some other ballet books, and came up with a very casual post on mysterious scenes featuring tights/stockings for dancers in the days before lycra: how did they stay up?
This has now become my most shared and RT-ed post, with comment and social media attention from all over.
As one kind RT-er put it:
Today in "Questions I didn't know were fascinating until I saw the answer" https://t.co/mP94ttdsdI— John Oxley (@Mr_John_Oxley) August 6, 2017
The answer turned out to involve pennies and elastic.
And then things got even better. The coins in the waistband trick was used by other performers too, and blog favourite Lissa Evans remembered that this was a feature in The Art of Coarse Acting by Michael Green: a comedy classic about amateur dramatics. I still had a copy on my shelf and I and various other Twitter friends (Sian Notley, looking at you) spent the evening remembering our favourite bits, with me being called on to find and post some of the better pages, all of us falling about with laughter. I then had to re-read the whole book, and found it even funnier than I remembered. Michael Green was a comic genius, and I would mistrust anyone who didn’t find the book hysterically funny.
He writes for the am-dram characters who can’t remember their lines, blunder into the scenery, and really just want to get to the pub before it shuts: the subtitle of the book is ‘How to Wreck an Amateur Dramatic Society.
There are artful reminsciences of Unpleastantnesses in theatres all over Britain, and anecdotes concerning his friends Askew (and his unfortunate sister Maureen) and Watkins. Anyone who has ever been to the theatre would find this book amusing. But it IS artful too, not just slapstick. Green describes an all-purpose Coarse Costume (note the tights – not enough coins used there…)
And then he gives a list of the parts for which it suitable. This is nothing more than half a page of character names, the small roles of Shakespeare. That’s all it is, but it is just hilarious, I cannot read it without laughing, but I don’t know why. Is it because it sums up the whole of Shakespeare in half a page? Is it the strange existence of King Lear and Corpse of Henry V, in the middle of the servitors, two of Timon’s creditors, another poet and a Pander? Who knows.
I could keep quoting the whole book, but instead you should each go out and get your own copy. Enjoyment guaranteed.