19 May 2010
What gets your goat? London transport? Noisy neighbours? British weather? writes Emma Ailes...
For my mother, the simple answer is almost everything, because I'm sorry to say - and don't tell her I said this - she has become a Grumpy Old Woman. Like an Icelandic volcano, she has been brewing for years, but recently begun to erupt into a billowing fury.
So when the 'Weekender' sent me to interview comic Camberwell resident of 28 years, Jenny Eclair, about her new stage show Grumpy Old Women Live, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to gain some expert advice on dealing with the the Grumpy Old Woman in my own life.
I meet Head Grump, Jenny 'the spleen burster' Eclair at a slightly quaint looking church hall in Clapham, where they are rehearsing the 90 minute 'rambunctious grump fest' which has been adapted from the hit TV series.
The irritable team consists of 59-year-old stand up Eclair, the first ever female winner of the coveted Perrier Award, and sidekicks ex-Corrie actress Wendy Peters and stage star Susie Blake. They are gracing the West End for an eight week run, fresh (well actually, not that fresh and a little bit saggy…) from a sellout 60 date national tour of the show.
I'm immediately treated to a live demonstration of what gives Eclair the right to wear the Queen Grump crown, when I mention seeing a less than spectacular Christmas light display last year at Camberwell Green, on her home turf:
"Who turned the Christmas lights on?" Eclair demands. "…umm, the council?" I say.
"No celebrities?!" She rants. "But there are loads of us desperate to turn on the Camberwell lights. I'm furious now!"
"Oh actually, they did have a brass band, I think…" I add.
"A brass band?!" She cries. I've obviously hit a sore spot, so change the subject to consult Eclair about my grumpy mum instead:
Me: Never content with the first table offered in a restaurant, my mother often insists on moving several times before she is happy she has the best seat. Is this normal?
Eclair: Our record of changing hotel rooms whilst on tour with Grumpy Old Women Live is abut four times. One particular Grumpy, who shall not be named, came up with all sorts of room problems - little tweaky noises, too close to the lift, too hot, too cold… So basically your mother is sizing herself up to be a very good team member. I think she should come on tour.
Me: My mother's mood changes with the season - as soon as the leaves begin to fall, she becomes instantly fouled-tempered. Can you help?
Eclair: Actually, I think the worst time of year for a Grumpy Old Woman is spring. It’s time to take off your thick, black woollen tights. Then you've got hair removal issues, cellulite issues and the perennial dilemma of shorts. Although, if all Grumpies had a different season to hate, we could maintain a level of grumpiness through out the whole year and just peak together around Christmas.
"So if all girls turn into their mothers, what do I have in store?" I ask. Eclair is ready for this one. She unveils a scientific graph she has prepared earlier on the back of a roller blind to plot the development of grumpiness in females over time.
"It starts with foetal grumping," she says, pointing to the chart. "Then the grumpy gene gestates most around the teenage period, with full-time sulking and door slamming. In the twenties it goes on the back burner, and then it starts around 30 with the first stretch mark - usually a physical manifestation followed by running out of dishwasher salts on Christmas Day. Soon you realise you've bought the exact same winter coat to your mother, and of course there's a lot of plucking to do."
One of the stage show's promised highlights is the nattily named 'Grumpy Guide to Safe Grumpy Rumpy Pumpy'. I want to know more. "It's a grumpy karma sutra." Jenny says. "Although there's only about three decent blokes in the first place, and by the time you get to my age that gorgeous bloke is a fat old chubbster with an unhealthy obsession with coy carp.
So good-looking men aren't why women have affairs then? "The reason for having an affair is that you'll probably get to have sex in a hotel, and that means you can get those sachets of conditioner and little soaps. Because every Grumpy Old Woman is always after a sachet," she admits.
Leaving Eclair and her Grumpy colleagues to their rehearsal, I decamp to a cafe down the road to write up our conversation. Glancing up, I see an irritated-looking, middle aged woman walk in, with a sulky teenage daughter in reluctant tow.
Her handbag is bulging with what can only be sachets of shampoo.
And I suddenly feel a wave of affection. We should cherish our Grumpy Old Woman. After all, it's what we'll all become. Grumpy Old Women Live 2: Chin Up Britian runs until June 5, 2010 at The Novello Theatre, Aldwych. For Box Office visit www.grumpyoldwomenlive.com or call 0844 482 5170
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