Ready to go on

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Nottingham - sherbet lemons

Another week away begins and this week we are in Nottingham, a lively student town with loads of places to eat, shop and drink until the wee small hours. Obviously of no interest to me. Where are the modern art galleries and bookshops? Can't find them, so I suppose I'll have to have more food and another pint?

We are at the Theatre Royal which is a lovely old theatre with a modern extension back stage and so, for just about the first time on this tour, everyone, not just the lead actors, has a decent dressing room with a shower and a fridge. I'm not sure why we all need a fridge and I'm sure the CFC's aren't helping the environment? I should imagine it is one of the luxuries that was traditionally required in a dressing room to keep the champagne on ice for after show drinks. Nowadays most of us are out of the theatre before the audience!

I think this week should be fun? The weather looks as if it is going to remain fine and we have a number of days with only one show so we should be able to get out and about, perhaps even as a company. A nice walk in Sherwood Forest perhaps? Good job I brought my green tights. The drive up here was OK as well, which means I will be able to get home in a reasonable time on Saturday night.

During my drive I found myself thinking about my father-in-law, who was also named Mike. In fact, the Fenton in my name is his. I added it when Equity wouldn't let me use Mike Stevens - they already had a member with that name and they won't let two members have the same name in case someone tries to pass themselves off as Laurence Olivier, or something like that. You could be Laurence Olivier now if you wanted to be. Perhaps I should change my name?

Anyway, I was thinking about Mike because I was eating a packet of sherbet lemons during my drive and it reminded me of a story he once told about his wild youth. He had been a bit of a rebel and drank copious amounts. That wasn't just during his youth, actually. He always had quite a capacity for drink and mischief, right up to the last few years of his life when he, sadly, was too ill to indulge his love of drink. The mischief never left him. I have spent so many hours over lunch and dinner tables with him, eating large, French country meals (he lived in France for the last 18 years of his life) and trying various wines. Happy days!

Mike told me that once, when he was young, he was booked in for a small operation on a large cyst that had developed between his eyes just above the bridge of his nose. He said it looked as if he was growing a second head. On the night before the operation he went, as he usually did, with a friend to the pub. After a while his mate mentioned that he had heard there was going to be a party at the student nurses halls of residence that night, so they downed there pints and set off in search of more booze and the tantalising prospect of chatting to student nurses! To bribe their way in they bought a cheap bottle of rather nasty whiskey.

When they turned up they tried the old trick of saying, "We're friends of Pete." This didn't work. All the men in the halls were doctors and none of them were called Pete. Even the whiskey bribe didn't work. They were spotted as interlopers and expelled by some rather strapping young doctors who were clearly not keen on sharing their student prey with a couple of hairy layabouts.

Mike lived in Southend at the time and, having given up on the party, he and his mate set off, forlornly, for the beach, where they shared the bottle of Whiskey and fell asleep.

When they woke in the morning they were very hungover but also fairly peckish. They had spent their last money on the whiskey the night before but Mike's companion rummaged in his pocket and found a half-eaten bag of sherbet lemons, which they shared.

It was at this point that Mike remembered he had a hospital appointment which he was very nearly late for. He ran to the hospital, apologised for his tardiness and was admitted. The nurse asked him if he had had anything to eat or drink that morning and Mike thought, "Well, the whiskey was last night and I've only had a couple of sweets." so he replied, "No, nothing,", He was sedated and fell asleep.

The next thing he remembered was coming around in the operating theatre with people rushing all over the place and a young doctor, the same one that had ejected him from the party the night before Mike claimed, although I think it was probably just him embellishing the tale. Would be nice though if it were true? I digress. This doctor was standing in the corner of the theatre shouting, "It's not my fault, I didn't do anything!!"

Apparently Mike had been wheeled in to the theatre and, as the doctor made the first incision, releasing large quantities of puss from Mike's forehead, Mike began to shake and foam at the mouth - a bright yellow foam. The nurses and doctor assumed that he had started to fit and had brought him round to try and stop it. The doctor believed that he had done something drastically wrong during one of his first operations and had caused the fit and was panicking. Mike sat up and projectile vomited across the room; a yellow, foaming stream of whiskey laden sherbet.

Mike had a large scar between his eyes at the top of his nose all the years I knew him. The doctor never did finish the operation.

Mike Fenton was a fantastic, intelligent, erudite, loving and loved, funny man. I'm proud to share his name.

Typical Mike behaviour at my daughters wedding - what a day!!

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