Monthly Archives: April 2011

Screaming bloody murder!

If you have read any of these blogs, you will know that I am a shallow woman and that my life has been largely dedicated to the pursuit of life, liberty and FUN. You may also suspect that entertainment, chez me, includes a life-long addiction to mystery stories.

And now, a dream come true: I am actually playing an on-stage role in a mystery. The play is called Deliver Us From Evil, and it opens tonight (Tuesday, April 19 at 8 pm at the Ottawa Little Theatre, playing till May 7). This is not comedy, I admit, but it does have other charms: lots of pouring rain, blood and tolling church bells. The play is set in an English village vicarage. I play the role of a county nibnob with a long pedigree and no cash to speak of. In my spare time, “I produce” for the local theatre company. Talk about art imitating life!

Let me confess: this is not my first encounter with murder. Though I have no criminal record to speak of, I have devoured something in the order of 3 million mystery stories (at a conservative estimate) since first learning to read. You remember that first book, don’t you, at the dawn of time? “See Dick run. See Spot jump.” Gripping stuff. I think I was about mid-way through first grade when I first began to long for a little literary mayhem, just to move the plot along and maybe get rid of that prize twit, Dick.

But really, what exactly do we like about rape, murder and grievous bodily harm in literary form? Sometimes, I admit, I’ve overdone it. I took a mystery with me on holiday once, when I went to stay with an uncle and aunt in England. The first night, I read a little before going to sleep, put the book down on the bedside table, switched off the light and – next thing I knew – was face to face with a large, black figure looming up out of the dark. “Are you a murderer,” I recall asking in a quivering voice. “I’m sorry to say,” the monster replied in a deep, throaty snarl, as he advanced with hands upraised, “that I AM!”

The next thing I knew, I was sitting up in bed, wide awake, shaking with terror and screaming aloud. Just as I realized it had been a dream, I became aware of faint movement in the next room, the sound of a door opening and footsteps in the hall. My uncle – a shaken man – knocked hesitantly at the door to ask if I had a burglar in there and was there anything he could do to help?

Perhaps I should have given up murder then and there. But I didn’t. I went big time a few years later when I invested in a packaged mystery game and invited seven friends for a seven-course murder. Following the instructions in the package, I dressed as a high-class Chicago call girl from Prohibition Days. I wore a long, black satin slip, with rhinestones at my ears and throat and pink satin mules with ostrich feather trim on the feet. I looked wonderful, but that did not save me from ruin.

Unfortunately, in those days, I had not yet discovered the winning idea of “potluck,” and over the next three or four hours I served a seven-course dinner to seven raucous guests. I soon gave up even trying to stay abreast of the evolving plot. I don’t know whether you’ve ever played any of these mystery games, but you have to turn the page of your little booklet at intervals to discover more clues, which various characters are then obliged “to enter into evidence” (that is, work into the conversation).

The first problem was an ill-considered guest list. Oh, they were having fun all right, but they were very disobedient and insisted on making up their own story! We staggered along in increasing disarray, and I must confess that my mind (or the tattered remnants thereof) was more on timing the fish and whipping the cream than it was on murder and mayhem. Finally: it was time for dessert. I slung the last plate on the table and slipped into my seat with the welcome knowledge that now, at last, I could concentrate on plot and maybe whip the rebels into line. Too late. I turned the page and there, at the top in big black letters, was this unwelcome message: “YOU ARE THE MURDERER.”

Words cannot express my horror (but don’t worry, I’ll try!). First, I thought of my anxious mother, who had always urged me to go straight. Then, I reflected on the fact that – having paid literally no attention that night to the plot as it developed – I had no idea whom I had murdered or why! I was facing a pretty bleak few moments, I realized, during the denouement. There was always the insanity plea, of course, and that struck me as a pretty solid defence. I don’t quite remember how the evening ended, but “shambles” is probably an accurate description.

You’d think I would have given up murder after that, but no: here I am back in the saddle again – this time in a play. Oh well, at least this time I have a good grip on the plot, and I have memorized most of the lines so kindly provided by the playwright. It’s going to be fun – not LOL fun (and that means “Laugh Out Loud,” in case you are not operating at my level in the language of the social media: I do try to keep up), but entertainment nevertheless. My only regret is that, after all the practice I’ve had, I am not allowed to scream – not even once. I am, in this sense, a wasted resource.

If murder is your cup of tea, do come and see the play. I am aware, however, that we all find fun in different places. This thought occurred me recently, when I was standing glumly in the rain in a nearby park watching Juno the Dog play with her pals. I had forgotten a hat or umbrella, so there I was, hands in pockets, streaming with cold wet misery. Not exactly a picture of delight.

Meanwhile, Juno the Dog was mud-wrestling, a sport that she takes to entirely new levels of delight. I have to say, she was in a bit of a pickle at that particular moment. She was spread-eagled on the wet ground while Bentley – who, until a recent encounter with a surgeon, was a sex-mad Lab – licked her fundaments. Naala, a big blond female, had one of Juno’s back legs between her snarling teeth and was worrying it enthusiastically. Jack, the big white-faced Bernese giant, was on top of the pile and apparently trying to chew my puppy’s ear off. Meanwhile, Juno’s little face and bright eyes were peering out at me through the fur with what I interpreted as an appeal. I waded in with a stern word. All for naught. A minute later, Juno was up and chasing Jack (and Bentley was chasing her) and it had begun again.

The thing is, Juno is a party girl. She knows how to have fun. We have that in common, though personally I keep my distance from Bentley, and it is some time since I have mud-wrestled. But here’s the thing: if you would like to have some fun that does NOT involve mud, try to work Deliver Us From Evil into your schedule over the next three weeks. It is on stage now at the Ottawa Little Theatre. Call 613-233-8948 for tickets.

And oh my God! Tonight is opening night! Eeeeeeekkkk!!!!!!

On offending the gods

Last night, I went to see Antigone – by the way: a most elegant production by the Third Wall Theatre Company – and it made me think. (Did I hear someone laugh?). Well, it did. You see, it was all about what happens when you screw up massively and annoy the gods (or nature or the universe, or whatever it is that slams us to our knees with such depressing regularity). And let me tell you: Those gods, once they get their knickers in a twist, have no sense of the ridiculous. That’s why it’s called “tragedy.”

Destiny is the wellspring of Greek tragedy; it also dominates my relationship with technology. It’s pathetic. Just as I start to think I’ve made my peace with the 21st century, kowblooey! There I am, spinning along at a rate of knots, pouring out words, inserting images, sorting data, even contemplating the purchase of an mvd player – I think that’s what it’s called – when all of a sudden, the machine comes to a screaming halt and says: “No.”

I am irked, I admit it. “What do you mean, no?” I snarl. “You did it last week. What’s the matter with you, anyway, you rusted-out barrel of byte-sized bolts?”

I am told that some people, when they hit the electronic wall, waste no time in calling for technical support. Personally, I find that this leads to embarrassing conversations. For instance: “What do you mean, you didn’t keep a backup?!” Alternatively, there are impenetrable questions along the lines of: “When did you last defrag?” (When did I last what?!)

The ancient Greeks had it right. This is destiny we’re talking about, and it’s best to go quietly. When computers stop working, all you can do is cast your hands up to the heavens, acknowledge that fate has dealt you one in the chops and go buy some gin.

All this to explain why I have not yet updated the Linden House website to incorporate the hot news (see the previous blog) re our 2011 production of The Circle by Somerset Maugham.

I actually did the work. I went in to the website-builder and updated everything. This involved more thinking, I’m afraid, and that can’t be good for me. At one point, I think there was actually smoke coming out of my ears as I pushed technology to the outer edges. Never mind! I gleefully hit the “Save” button, happy to know that yet another job had been ticked off the endless and self-renewing “To Do” list.

“No way,” said the computer. “Forget it. Go away. Nya-nya-nya-nya!” and words to the effect.

This is a family blog. There is a young dog in the house, and I will not share the words that came from my lips. I gathered my forces and cautiously tried again. Same answer. “You have offended the gods,” intoned the machine. “Eat your heart out.”

This was an especially painful blow, given the character of the last couple of months, which I can only describe as grim. Some time around February 15, my favourite clients typically glance at the annual work plan and say something along the lines of, “Whoops.” That’s when – if I am lucky – the phone rings and a mother lode of emergency work results – all of it with a March 31 deadline. Now, this is a good thing in many ways, rather like the Christmas rush in the retail market. It helps me to finance a few bad habits (such as the annual play) and luxuries (laundry soap, for instance) and even the odd necessity (gin rises to mind).

Don’t get me wrong (are you listening, gods?). The only thing worse than having too much work is having too little. Still, I wonder what bright light first had the idea of inciting our government into a frenzy of year-end activity. Anyway, it’s over for another year. I thundered over the finish line in the middle of the night on Thursday, March 31. I pressed the “send” button and, as the sun rose, went for a long walk with Juno the Dog. Three days have passed since then, and life is beginning to filter back into the numbed extremities. I have actually smiled twice this morning.

Before I cheer up too definitively, do you mind if I snarl a bit about daylight savings? Last month, I was proceeding along, minding my own business, head down, working away steadily and in good heart, all things considered, when all of a sudden the government ripped an entire hour out of my life. Don’t get up at 6, screamed the powers that be. Get up at 5! IN THE DARK!

I ask you. Then the bastards have the nerve to ask for my vote. Not until they give me back my hour! Of course, it could have been worse. It could have been a whole day. My sister has just returned from the Orient, having crossed the dateline (twice) in going and returning. My understanding of that line is that the universe first gives you a whole day and then grabs it back. Isn’t that typical? The head spins. Literally.

Cautiously opening one eye to see if the spinning has stopped, I cast it forward to the future. There will be a morning, some time in October, I believe, when the government will grudgingly give me back my hour. Though unforgiving of the original injury, I will drink that hour to the dregs. I will luxuriate. I will roll myself up in it. I will soak in it. I will pour cream into its steaming depths and dawdle over it. I may even have a second cup as I wonder how to use that wonderful new expanse of unscheduled time.

In the meantime, I’ve got things to do. It’s Sunday, and I am running late. My beloved nephew is probably sitting beside the telephone in Denver, waiting for my call (ha-ha). Never mind. When he does make the mistake of answering the telephone, he’s mine! He has this little program by which he takes over remote control of my computer. I sit on my hands – literally, because the instinct to seize the mouse and make trouble is almost overwhelming. So I sit on my hands and watch wide-eyed, while a ghostly mouse in Colorado moves the cursor around in a slow and methodical way and, presto, it’s all fixed.

Andrew, my wonderful nephew, is mentioned in my will. Not – given my various bad habits (see above) – that there will be anything to inherit. But worst case scenario: he can have my computer. He, at least, knows how it works.

And now dear reader: Give me an hour or two, then check out the website – If you see the date “October 20-29, 2011” mentioned anywhere, you’ll know that Andrew still loves his old aunt and that I managed to catch him when his resistance was low.

If not and if you know anything about computers, please call.