I was advised when I started this blog by my good friend Soo to hold back some thoughts in reserve, not to dump it all there at once so I don’t have ideas for later posts. This was good advice. But, God! thoughts rush into my head like so many ghosts riding tornadoes and I have trouble restraining them. “Now, now, one ghost at a time” I say “please queue up”, in my best British manner. But do they listen? So here goes:
A lot of people tell me I have stories to tell and I shall start this post with another story. When I was in primary school, oh, way back in the 1940s, we had an American actor/dancer come to give us a talk. I don’t remember his name but I do remember exactly what he looked like. He was small of stature and lean, about 5′ 5″ and as you might say well put together. I remember he had beige flannels and a white silk shirt. (If he didn’t wear a white silk shirt he should have). We were all seated in the great hall of the school after assembly. Another person to give us a pep talk, we thought with the superiority of seven year olds. But this man was different. He paced the width of the stage slowly and silently, taking control of his space. Even as a small boy I took an interest right away. When he had done pacing he turned to us and began to speak. He had the easy delivery of an actor, where his voice carried with no effort on his part.
What he said to us in essence was this: Be aware of your body, take the space around you and use it to your benefit. Be aware of the movement of each individual limb as it moves, when you walk, when you talk, when you stand still. He walked across the stage very slowly, gracefully without any jerky movements and made us be aware of how he walked, conscious of every movement of his arms and legs. He went into a slow dance to show us how movement can be graceful and arresting to anyone watching it. He said we could use this technique whether we walk on stage or on the street. He emphasized we should control our movements and be conscious of them while at the same time being relaxed.
People who do yoga will understand what I am saying. There is a pose in yoga called ‘the Mountain Pose’. In it we have to stand straight, rooting our feet well into the ground, holding our spine straight and balancing ourselves on both feet equally so our body is rooted and balanced by itself without using muscular effort to hold ourselves straight. This is mere standing but it is a very controlled and conscious and relaxed standing. Now I know this is what the man was saying, that even the simple pose of standing can be made dynamic and strong and it can be projected on to an audience. That is what actors do. They have to be super conscious of all their body movements because that communicates as well as the mouth and the face.
The other thing that fascinated me was the expression on his face. He carried his head well and his face had a neutral expression. Not robot like but pleasant and neutral and sort of detached. (words sometimes fail). He did tell us not to walk around with our faces screwed up. That makes people judge you by your expression. He said be aware of your expression and control it at all times. This could get you out of many a scrape. It is amazing how much I remember of that speech. It helped that I had a crush on him for years afterwards. I might even be embellishing this story from my own life experiences, but the message stands.
So folks, carry yourselves well. Be proud of who you are. Be relaxed and have a pleasant expression on your faces. You will be surprised how much it changes how other people relate to you. I am well aware of the difficulties of practising it in today’s world. Oh, don’t I know it, rushing from night duty to the children to get them ready and rush them off to school and grab a little sleep before getting up at 3 in the afternoon to get them from school, cook a meal and then have a stolen nap of an hour before rushing off to work. In between I had to find time to go food shopping or shoe shopping or go to parents evenings. I have been there big time. And I bet if you had seen me then I would have walked around with a screwed up and formidable face. In old age I can sit back and preach to you, I know. But you know what I am doing here. I am telling you the wisdom I have learned over the years. It need not have been like that. I am sure I could have organised my life better. But when you are white-water rafting you have no time to eat your salmon sandwich. All I am saying is find the time and be the better person for it. Be at least aware of what is happening to you.