Thursday, 12th July 2007
‘Daddy! It’s my birthday! I’m five! I’m not a shrimp any more!’ The excitement in her voice was palpable. Louisa Mary Lucia comes of age. There is only one child left in her class now who is still only four years old. She is officially no longer a Shrimp. It could not have been a nicer way to have been woken up on my youngest’s fifth birthday.
Her older siblings had not shown similar emotion at this rite of passage. I could not let her down by feeling sad at her growing up. She will always be my youngest, after all. In my mind, at least. I lay in bed, smiling to myself, listening to the exchange between father and daughter. ‘I hear you had a birthday treat last night?’ says N (who had been away). ‘Yes. It was really borwing.’ (She’s never been one to mince her words.) Indeed, it was a mistake. A friend who was appearing in the Buxton Festival (a summer season of special one-off performances, speakers, operas and fringe shows) told me enthusiastically ‘Oh, you MUST come and see me. It’s a musical, based on a bible story [Joseph sprang to mind]. There are lots of children. The girls will LOVE it.’ So, suitably enthused, and thinking this would be a lovely birthday treat for Louisa, I book tickets. We invite another 5 year old. A new friend. The excitement mounts. They skip along the pavement and into the Church where the performance is being staged. We are too late, all the seats are taken downstairs. We go up to the gallery. Again, all front row seats taken. At three foot tall, they cannot see a thing. We ask a kindly couple if they could squeeze in next to them at the front. I sit on a different row. The ‘show’ starts. Oh dear. All discordance and symbolism. Oh look, there’s our friend. Wearing the orange skirt. Dressed as a peasant. What’s going on? Who’s he? Is that Tobias? Is that the Angel? And who’s the scary man in red caressing a young lady’s bosom. I glance nervously across at the little heads. Backs straight as rods, they do not flinch. The show goes on. It gets no clearer. I notice the girls shifting. L gets up, squeezes past knees, up the aisle, past more knees and across to me. ‘I’m borwed!’ Her little friend follows, sniffing noisily. ‘I’m thirsty!’
Somehow, we got through it. I didn’t understand a thing. Not much hope, then, for a 5 year old. I worried they’d have nightmares with the scary man and the discordant notes. Remarkably, they seemed unbothered. It was an excellent performance, fantastic vocals. But can anyone tell me what ‘Tobias and the Angel’ is actually all about?! I need to try and explain it to a couple of 5 year olds I know…
We went to the park and played on the swings. They enjoyed that. And so did I.