Blackheath Cendrillon: A slipper and a ring


L.C. here.  This is my last post on behalf of Cherry.  She says I’ve behaved very irresponsibly and I am lucky not to have been had up in front of the Leveson Enquiry.  Anyway, I’m feeling a bit crest-fallen because I didn’t find out who the mystery woman was first after all.

But I was there, when it happened at least, and yes, I know I wasn’t supposed to take pictures, because Harriet’s lot had an exclusive; but, what the hell, might as well be hung for a sheep as a lamb, eh?

What a turn up!  Who knew that the ghastly Haltiere woman had another daughter?  How did they hide her from the cameras?  Harriet says they thought she was a servant (in the Haltiere household read that as slave) and no-one, not even her Dad, recognised her until she took her shoes off – the heels weren’t that high.  Madame H nearly ruined my pictures blocking everything out with her giant hat.

So, anyway, Lucette de la Haltiere is our new queen. Charming looks pleased, and the King frankly, relieved.  I know you didn’t hear it here first or anything, but it’s still rather remarkable.

Sadly everything in this blog, even Elsie (yes it is Elsie, not L.C. no matter what she says) is entirely imaginary.  Thanks to Jules Massenet and his collaborators, including Harry Fehr for the inspiration of the Blackheath Halls Community Opera production of Cinderella (Cendrillon) You can read reviews of the production here and here, but the run is over, so that’s it til next year, apart from those involved in the work who get together in September to start planning … Purcell, anyone?

© Cherry Potts 2012

Blackheath Cendrillon: A Post from the Court Poet, Grand Duchess Elizabette


‘CENDRILLON’ – A TRIBUTE

The skies above were leaden, the clouds loomed dark and grey,
but, at the Halls, the mood was light, all musical and gay.
Forget the Jubilympics,  forget the Torch Relay,
‘Cinderella, the Opera’ is the order of the day.

Nick Jenkins was regaling us with tales of Gay Paree,
La Belle Epoque, the Opera, the splendid Comedie.
We worried for his sanity –  he was so darn frenetic,
so passionate, so supercharged, so horribly energetic,
that, in the end, we really felt we really had to say,
‘Take a chill pill, calm down, Nick,  it’s only Massenet.’

Now, Harry, we’ve been wondering, when you were just a kid,
did you do all the games and pastimes other nippers did?
Or were your days spent reading Ikea catalogues,
instead of guns and football and walking with the dogs?
It’s just that we have noticed (and this isn’t disapproval),
that you seem to have a penchant for furniture removal.

Picture Harry with an analyst, you know the archetype,
goatee, bow tie and accent that you could cut with a knife.
Says Freud, ‘Lie on zis sofa, you’re obsessed und I can prove it.’
Harry says, My God, a sofa! I know just the place to move it!’

Madame is shrill and shrewish, she yells and screams and bickers,
but she is just a parvenu, all fur coat and no knickers.
The sisters weird, their mother mad, their schemes all dark and miry,
in fact, just like the Murdochs at the Leveson Enquiry.

Ah, poor Monsieur, we felt for you, your girl abused and spurned.
Oh how we cheered and clapped our hands when your inner worm it turned!
You showed Madame who’s master, but we fervently hope and pray,
you never buy her a copy of  ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’!

While cougars prowled the catwalk in search of princely bounty,
the younger ones were definitely of the set called ‘county’.
In their gorgeous ball gowns, they looked divine and lush.
More swaying derrieres were there than Pippa’s famous tush!
The panoply of human life, the highnesses and lownesses  –
there was more money at that ball than bankers’ annual bonuses!

Though suicide attempts were made, there were no casualties,
for in the fairy hospital were fairy remedies.
In fact, the Fairy Godmother was pulling all the strings.
Her silver call rang out and all the fairies flapped their wings.
Her powers are legendary – all must hear and obey.
She got a hotline call from Dave and Nick the other day.
‘G4S is yours’ they cried, ‘and, if you want to stay,
we’ll put you in the Cabinet instead of Theresa May!’

The brides thought they were shoe-ins, but hefty feet and shins,
meant that they could not fit into those dainty Louboutins.
Don’t worry, thwarted sisters, your futures don’t look dark –
just go down to Mahiki’s and nab an oligarch.

Oh, Prince and Cinderella, you tugged at our heartstrings.
We sobbed and cried with tears of joy when you exchanged your rings.
But even now the Godmother, though you are all loved up,
is at the elfin lawyer’s, looking through the prenup.

Our revels now are ended but we hope we may, we might,
next year – if funding will allow – continue this delight.
We all desire to sing again and to enjoy the sight,
of a little bit of Harry and Nick Jenkins in the night!

Written by Elizabeth Goldman © July 2012
and dedicated, with love and thanks,
on behalf of Blackheath Halls Community Opera Chorus to:
Harry Fehr & Nick Jenkins

Blackheath Cendrillon: Prince Charming’s Dilema


L.C. Spinetti here again, I got in a bit of trouble with that recording earlier, Harriet says she’s going to sue me, but only when she needs the publicity. However the head honchos at REALly?! really liked it, and I got a pay rise and a commission to take pictures of all the eligible Gels About Town, which has proved very useful, as the second most eligible bachelor is officially on the market, so most of the Gels in question are really keen to have their portraits on line.

Prince Charming refuses to go to the Ball copyright Cherry Potts 2012

but the questions is

Which will he choose?

Prince Charming trying to choose a wife copyright Cherry Potts 2012

here are a few of the lovely ladies making the running.

Of course, after the ball last night it was pretty obvious that none of these well-heeled, well-bred ladies no matter how good a self-publicist she is, no matter how far she is prepared to demean herself or her fellow princesses in wanton displays of vapid self-interest, they had not a hope amongst them.  The Prince has set his heart on an impossible dream, he wants to marry a woman with character (I told you so) and tiny feet (Ok, I didn’t think of that one.)

So all they can hope for now is to turn up at the Abbey tomorrow, and see whether the mysterious and impractical glass slipper fits them.

but I got a picture of the mystery heart breaker, and I bet I can find her faster than any herald with a slipper on a cushion and accompanying trumpeters. Ha!

Mystery woman makes her appearance at the ball copyright Cherry Potts 2012

Sadly, none of the people or situations in this blog are real, they are in fact the product of the imagination of  Charles Perrault, by way of Jules Massenet, Jeremy Sams, Harry Fehr and Cherry Potts, with a bit of help from other members of the Blackheath Opera Chorus.  Massenet’s Cinderella final performance is on Sunday at Blackheath Halls, but is sold out. Sorry!

© Cherry Potts 2012

Blackheath Cendrillon: Prince Charming … alarming


L.C.Spinetti here again, Cherry’s too busy with Arachne Press to cover the unfolding drama at court, so REALly!? have given me a short commission to keep up with action in the small kingdom of BlackHeath.  Quite a change from covering Crufts.

So you’ll never guess who I met on the heath this morning. The Royal Poodles! All four of them, being walked by a couple of footman and the Prince’s ex nanny.

One of the poodles – Horatio – bounded up to me and almost knocked me over, and she came over to apologise.  Of course she’s used to being recognised especially if she’s out with the dogs, so she wasn’t terribly impressed when I said hello, but actually, I do know her – she’s a friend of Mother’s.  So after I reminder her who I was we had a bit of a chat, mostly about Signor Spinetti, who is off covering the Grand Prix, however I couldn’t help noticing she was looking rather strained.  So I asked, is one of the dogs ill?

Oh no, she said, no, they’re all fine, it’s the prince.  He’s been moping for days, and now he says he wont go to the ball.

Now, even I know a scoop when it’s dropped in my lap, so I persuade her that she needs a cup of coffee, from the stall by the pond, and sit her down on a bench. The poodles scamper in and out of the water and the footmen sneak off for a quick fag and a pint in the PoW, and nanny unburdens her anxieties onto my willing ears.

Nanny: The atmosphere at the palace is dreadful, Charming moping, his father stamping about in a temper – and normally I’d rely on Henry Fortescue-Smythe, to sort it out, you know what a fixer he is, but there’s been that incident – well, in his absence his uncle, (ginger-beer-peer, Lord H F-S) can generally get one of them to come round, but he got stomped on by a horse in the winner’s enclosure at Ascot, and has a broken foot, so he’s not really up to shuttle diplomacy from one wing of the palace to the other.
The Prime Minister has tried, but he has about as much tact as a rhino on heat – no, it’s very stressful.

LCS: What’s caused all this? I mean it’s not like the prince to sulk, he’s always been such a sweet boy.

Nanny: Well, just so – that’s how he got his nick name, it was me who coined it, as it were – I remember when he was just a little boy – well, never mind that – he grown now and he needs a wife.

LCS: You don’t think…

Nanny: Good heavens, no!

LCS: Well, it’s just that…

Nanny: No Elsie, put that thought from your mind.

LCS: It’s L.C. actually. Anyway, if he’s sulking about being asked to marry – it’s not like there aren’t plenty of pretty girls he can choose from.

Snooty princesses copyright Cherry Potts 2012

Nanny: Handsome is as Handsome does, Elsie dear. Most of them are scheming gold-diggers only interested in his money and position.  It’s not easy for a prince to meet the right girl; although there was a very sweet girl at the party rehearsal – he seemed quite taken with her at the time.  I had a long chat with the Mother, somebody de la Villette – daughter of a rent collector, can you imagine! She has great hopes for her Hortense, but – a little – provincial – I don’t think the King would wear it – it would take forever to get her polished up.  No, sadly, I don’t think Hortense is the girl for my Prince Charming, though she’d be a better bet than either of those toxic Haltiere girls.

LCS: Oh! Do you know them?

Nanny: Know them? I was at school with their mother, and a right madam she was too, bullied everyone.  Even the headmistress was frightened of her.  She thinks her girls are good enough for my Charming. He wouldn’t give either of them a second glance – except of horror possibly.   Not their fault of course, it’s just… Madame.  ghastly woman.

Hortense de la Villette overwhelmed by her encounter with the Prince copyright Cherry Potts 2012

LCS: So what do you think the Prince looks for in a  potential wife?

Nanny: All the traditional princessly virtues of course. Beauty, charm, grace, kindness, a lovely voice, her own money, good breeding…

LCS: Intelligence? Courage? Humour?

Nanny: Let’s be realistic Elsie, we are talking about Princesses.  He’d be lucky to find one with any of those qualities.

Lucky indeed. We’d finished our coffee at this point so I couldn’t drag it out any longer. Well, the party starts at seven on Tuesday, so we shall see: will the prince make do with a vacuous god-digger or will he find the princess of his dreams?

© Cherry Potts 2012

Sadly this blog is a work of fiction and noneof the characters depicted in it should be taken to represent any real person or company living or dead.  They spring from the fertile imaginations of Mssrs Perrault and Massenet as channelled by Harry Fehr with  a bit of help from Cherry Potts and other members of the cast of Cinderella;

this year’s community opera at Blackheath Halls. Today’s installment features Mme de la Villette, a character created by Laura Sparkes.

Blackheath Cendrillon: Princesses’ Hour


Rachael and Natasha

Cheerful princesses copyright Cherry Potts 2012

A Guest blog here from L.C. Spinetti, roving reporter for REALly?! magazine, part of the REALly?! Empire which includes everyone’s favourite REALity show At Home With the Haltieres™, (the first installment of the fifth season is aired on July 17th at a special showing at Blackheath Halls.  You can book your tickets here.)

Last night the rehearsal for the King’s big cocktail party to give his son, the Prince, a chance to view the fairest in the Kingdom took place.  Of course I was there to cover Madame de la Haltiere and her daughters Noémie and Dorothy on behalf of REALly?! and I didn’t actually have a press pass, so I snuck in with Hermione Fancott REALly?! Radio! reporter on Princesses’ Hour, No one seemed to be surprised that a Radio programme needed a photographer.

I have to be honest, I hardly noticed the Haltieres, although they are quite hard to ignore. There were princesses everywhere.

Prince getting alarmed copyright Cherry Potts 2012

Of course, the unfortunate arrest of Henry Fortescue-Smythe Junior, heir to the F-R-Vessent Ginger Beer fortune, and most eligible bachelor in the Kingdom, did rather focus attention on the prince, as the second most eligible bachelor.

It has to be said the ladies were coming on a bit strong.  It was only a rehearsal, after all.  There was something of the feel of the catwalk to the proceedings and the Prince was looking very uncomfortable with the attention.

Over-eager princess copyright Cherry Potts 2012

Princess being ejected copyright Cherry Potts 2012

Princess being restrained by the Prime Minister copyright Cherry Potts 2012

Of Course it isn’t given to everyone to catch the eye of a prince, and there were many ladies who were disappointed, to say nothing of one or two who had to be actively restrained!

Cinderella makes her appearance at the ball copyright Cherry Potts 2012

But who was that stranger? I couldn’t find her in Debrett, but the Prince couldn’t take his eyes off her… are wedding bells in the air?

© Cherry Potts 2012

Sadly this blog is a work of fiction and none of the characters depicted in it should be taken to represent any real person or company living or dead.  They spring from the fertile imaginations of Mssrs Perrault and Massenet as channeled by Harry Fehr with  a bit of help from Cherry Potts and other members of the cast of Cinderella.

The Blackheath Community Opera production of Massenet’s Cinderella is at Blackheath Halls London SE3 for 4 performances only. Book NOW!

Haunted by Fairy Tales


So I’m on a business trip in Germany, slightly reluctantly (too close to Christmas, weather turning bad) and I discover that Kassel, where I am at a meeting of a European Project is the home town of the Brothers Grimm.  Drawing a veil over the journey which was definitely in the Epic rather than F-T mode, there are F-T references everywhere.  The Brothers huddle together in statue form in a slightly scruffy patch of grass, an open book clutched between them.

Kassel carousel

carousel decorated with scenes from Little Red Riding Hood copyright Cherry Potts 2010

The Christmas Market sports a kind of windmill driven pagoda with life-size figures from Snow White in perpetual motion, and the carousel is painted with scenes from Little Red Riding Hood…

The wine at dinner one night is called ‘Little Red Riding Hood’ too – the venue for this meal is the tower of a ruined church (Cafe Luther), which would fill in for Rapunzel’s tower quite well (the giant metal doors of the tower room were stunning).  Even the entrepreneurs we are here to meet bring us fairy-tale themed food.  Bettina Trautwein, owner of a cafe and catering company serves up ‘fairy tale soup’ which turns out to be beetroot with sour cream and pumpkin oil – reflecting the red white and black theme at the start of Snow White, when her Mother’s blood falls in the snow… This is followed by a salad (I was hoping for Rapunzel here, as it was stolen Ransoms got her parents in trouble in the first place, but no) a salad which represented the rose forest around the goats cheese castle of Sleeping Beauty with a pastry kiss on top, and almonds scattered in the leaves.  And the almonds? we ask… oh those are all the dead princes, Bettina says beaming.  Slightly disconcerted, I eat my almonds.  The food is excellent, and gets me thinking about how food features in fairy tales:  gingerbread cottages and breadcrumbs in Hanzel and Gretel (and the potential for baked boy, too), poisoned apples in Snow White, that stolen garlic in Rapunzel.

Frozen Waterfall

Frozen Waterfall copyright Cherry Potts 2010

The following day, business concluded, we are taken on a guided walk around the Bergpark Wilhelmehohe a fantasy landscape of folly castles, ‘ancient’ temples, and frozen waterfalls.  We are told a ghost story… and leaving out the ghost, its a very good story indeed, which really captured my imagination.

soon it will be processed into something else entirely.

copyright Cherry Potts 2010

Dark and Stormy


Dark & Stormy
A Halloween piece … Winter, spicy gingerbread, slavery and marriage to an insanely jealous man … another exercise from WOOA, sparked off by not having got around to submitting anything on the Dark & Stormy theme to Liars’ League, and for once I didn’t come up with a story.

I keep dark Muscavado sugar in a supposedly airtight jar. I bought that jar in the mid seventies from the Reject Shop in Tottenham Court Road. The jar is square and has a Victorian engraving of ladies in a teashop on one side, which is what attracted me to it, in a very seventies-Laura-Ashley sort of way, but practical- air-tight unbreakable. On the other side of the jar the picture is of child slaves cutting sugar cane.
I often think about throwing that jar away, I’m not comfortable with that image, and I’m not comfortable with my fourteen-year-old self who bought it. It isn’t that airtight either; when the weather is humid the sugar melds itself into a brick. But it stays on the shelf with equally disturbing coffee and tea caddies and every time I reach it down I am reminded of the true price of sugar.
Every time I make this kind of cake – not often these days, but still, when I do – I think of Demerara and Barbados and plantations, especially if the recipe requires rum.
And while I am trying to hack the gritty dark brown brick into manageable weighable pieces, for some reason I think of pale slender ships scudding across dark green waters, threatened by storm clouds the size of continents. Breaking the sugar-brick requires a heavy knife (though not as heavy as the machete the child-slave wields), a clean cloth, and a rolling pin. The knife is laid edge-to-sugar the cloth goes over, to prevent flying shards ricocheting about the kitchen, and the rolling pin is used to hit the back of the blade.
It makes me think:
Breaking rocks in the hot sun (and sometimes I sing it)
Oscar Wilde in Reading jail
and
a story from One Thousand and One Nights… in which a jealous sultan believes (wrongly) that his wife is unfaithful, and plans to murder her in her bed. She gets wind of his intentions and when he comes to cut off her head in the night, raising his scimitar and bringing it down on what he believes to be her neck, there is a crack and his mouth is suddenly filled with sweetness. He falls to his knees sobbing in repentance, and she steps from behind a curtain and reveals that the headless body in the bed is a sugar effigy.
I am usually melting sugar and butter and rum and ginger together at this point, and as I stir this thick warm liquid, that looks like tar and smells like Christmas and late summer in the same breath, I think about that woman, watching her husband trying to kill her.
How can she forgive him, how can she trust him? How can he bear to even look at her when she reveals the truth? I wonder if they ate the rest of that sugar wife.
I only make this cake between late September and Twelfth Night. It is a cake for Halloween and inky afternoons where the sky turns from cobalt through Prussian blue and only the blackbirds sing; a cake for eating with the lights on, and the fire lit; and whether the curtains are drawn or not, for rain against the window.
Cakes like this, they take time and thought.
They weigh heavy: occasionally on the stomach, but mostly in the mind. Dark and stormy: the smells of nutmeg and cardamom, cinnamon and mace, cloves and ginger, raise ghosts; but the first bite of still warm crumbling richness is the taste of distance and long journeys, of security, and of home.
Copyright Cherry Potts 2010