At the age of nine, I was dragged kicking and screaming away from my football games in the park and into a dance studio. I don’t ever remember asking to be sent to a Dance class, ballet, tap and ballroom did not occupy my wall space, footballers and rockstars were my interests. Perhaps I had shown some inate ability to dance? No, my Mum said, she sent me to ballet because I was so clumsy. It was a thing parent’s did to you in those days, things they thought would be good for you… wrong! My Mom always wanted a little girl… I was patently the prettiest of her children, so I got to do all the girly shit she wanted to recreate. She said recently, that I went to Ballet lessons because she couldn’t afford to go when she was a girl. I said “But Mom I am not a girl!” Apparently that didn’t matter. As a counter to this, my Dad decided that I should join the Cubs… I got as far as gaining a woggle and a green jumper, I may have even got a model making badge… But that was as far as it went. I gave up after a few weeks… I’m not very good in a regimented atmosphere, never really been a follower, so I stopped.
Mum was not so easy to dissuade, and I had to go to bloody ballet lessons for over six months. Through the summer it was purgatory, being locked inside, learning dance routines to perform at garden parties and at local leisure centres was hell. I was never a clean and tidy child, I went through the knees of trousers, lost shoes to the mud on numerous occasions. I was a regular just William, always up to boys stuff… So be forced into ballet… I was definitely a square peg in a round hole. My only connection to poise and grace, was that I looked cute, blond and tiny, I looked like I might be good to look at as a performer.
I managed to escape the clutches of the dreaded ballet lessons, when I miraculously got picked for Lichfield at football at the age of ten, and this dissuaded my mother from thinking that I was destined to be Rudolf Nureyev, but more likely Nobby Stiles… A footballer from the sixties, to anyone who might not be old enough to know.
I have absolutely no idea why I was picked for the city football team, just as I Have know idea how I was picked for North Midlands Colts at rugby. I never campaigned to be picked for anything… Things just happened and I let them.
After the Ballet debacle I had thought my Mother would have learnt her lesson… However, when I went to a Girls Grammar School, as the first intake of boys in it’s long and illustrious history, she decided that as Elocution lessons were available to discerning parents, that I must have them!
So again, two lunchtimes a week I was locked into a temporary classroom, with the lovely Mrs. Neu, who thought I was made of Chocolate! So there I sat, the only boy in a class of middle-class female progeny of the upwardly mobile… Over enunciating my vowels, like a constipated sheep, whilst longingly looking out of the windows watching all my mates playing football in the grounds.
Do I have a proper plummy voice? No not really. My natural Brummy twang is hidden, but pops out whenever I’m with brummies, but I pronounce Garage, bath, etc, like I was born to received English. The elocution lessons did however facilitate my moving into acting for the school, and for my undergoing R.A.D.A. examinations. So it wasn’t all bad.
The moral of this little homily? Don’t try to live out your dreams through your children, it will only end in tears. Children have their own dreams, so let them live those.
Dale M we with J.