Well here we are then. Doing the blogging thing. I’m guessing that these pages will be a kaleidoscope of assorted thoughts, anecdotes, rants and reminiscences, spanning a multitude of topics from “The Joy to be had from a Tromboncino Courgette” to “How to Remove a tick without leaving the head in.” And some things about Children’s Media too, no doubt, which is where I spend most of my time. Still not quite sure how I ended up here but this was the route taken…..
I began life in Idi Amin’s office in Kampala which wasn’t his office at the time – it was a delivery room in Nakasero Hospital – but the building was later commandeered by Amin when he seized control of Uganda. My Father ran a newspaper – The Uganda Argus. Jobs didn’t come more high risk than that in post Colonial Africa. He survived a kidnapping and a number of witch doctors’ curses and was regularly hauled over the coals by Amin himself. Mother taught in a Primary School. She taught everything but especially music because she’d been a professional singer back in the UK prior to the start of the African adventure. But she was best known for her remarkable musical productions at the National Theatre of Uganda in Kampala – a plethora of pantomimes and Gilbert and Sullivan operettas. Yup – G & S in the jungle in 1965. Mighty weird. She was not permitted to raise the Union Jack (it was a Jack then, not a flag) at the end of HMS Pinafore but, other than that, they were pretty much as D’Oyly Carte would have had them. It felt perfectly normal at the time. Mother was the first person to sing the Uganda National Anthem on Independence Day, 9th October 1962, live on Radio Uganda – a glamorous white lady warbling in the new era. I was there in the studio and spent the next ten years or so sitting in the theatre watching her directing shows, or, if I was really lucky, being in them myself. (My balletic goose, in Mother Goose, was a bit of a tour de force, it has to be said, and may well warrant a post of its own at some point.) On the same day my father, (having sent a photographer to the rehearsal to get the shot of the Uganda flag being raised), hired a load of vans and shipped the Independence Day newspapers with the flag on the front cover out to all the villages to arrive the minute Independence was declared. He died in 1992. He was a good man in Africa.
I was shipped off to boarding school in the UK at the age of ten and a half. That’s what you did. My guardians were my Aunt Edna and Uncle Charles and they lived next door to my father’s mother, an ancient little butterball with a bun, a Brummie accent and a will of steel. Uncle Charles ran a Newsagents shop in Southgate, North London. He was round and jolly and could have been Mr Whoops (See Grandpa in my Pocket.) I saw them about twice a term for exeats (a posh way of say “weekends out”) or half term when I stayed next door with “Gran.” Otherwise their chore was to take me to and from Heathrow. School was a penitentiary but I seemed to quite like it. The friends that I made mostly came from money which meant that I got to do things that often involved smoked salmon and champagne. Daughters of racing drivers, actors, multi-millionaire builders and future Prime Ministers were among my peers. The school, under the leadership of one Enid M Essame – an inspirational woman who played a big part in ones’ formative years – turned out a bunch of fairly spirited and wholesome women. The ones with academic leanings did Latin, the more practically inclined did domestic science. The ultimate goal was the same – independence. We were told always to have our own bank account and our own car. Then we could fend for ourselves and get away if necessary. Fast.
So there were three bits to my life. The volatile Africa bit, the posh school bit and the suburban semi bit where I’d watch Coronation Street with my old Gran, suck lemon sherberts and listen to her stories of the Black Country where she’d worked in the Crooked House Pub as a barmaid.
University – Hull, it was. A Drama and Russian joint degree. Both departments were well thought of which was just as well because it slightly made up for being in Hull. I did the Russian largely to please my father who would probably have liked me to end up in the Foreign Office. Despite desperate attempts by Russian tutors to lure me back to my verbs of motion, it was the Drama Department that got most of my attention. I remember sitting in a Drama practical class with a paper bag on my head in my first term doing some experimental mask work. It was election day. I’d just voted for the first time. And here I was in a bag.
So all that happened before I started work. The work bit can be gleaned from my biog. I married Martin Franks, a TV Director, in 1980 (NB child bride) and we have two daughters both of whom are involved in the entertainment industry so nobody has a proper job. But, in the words of the old Goethe chestnut that my Headmistress would regularly trot out – “What you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.”
So I’ve begun this blog.