Grace: Henley Literary Festival

September 30, 2012

This article was written for Annabel & Grace, which is now part of Rest Less.

Well, I wanted to do a few things out of my comfort zone and last night was definitely one of them…and I’m pretty sure I can also speak for the other two CountryWives!  I haven’t been on a stage in front of an audience since I was four, when all I had to do was say “I am Comedy” from behind a theatrical mask and I promptly forgot my line. So ‘treading the boards’ again was a daunting prospect for me. And it wasn’t any better for my fellow CountryWives – Ellie was petrified of getting a hot flush in front of everyone and Annabel’s front tooth is currently held in place by glue, so she was convinced it would fall out and land in an audience member’s lap!

Earlier in the day, the three of us had lunch at The Field Kitchen in Nettlebed (all Farrow & Ball and FABULOUS salads) and, as we sipped our cappuccinos, had a quick rehearsal answering questions we thought the lovely Lucy Cavendish might ask us that evening. It was a disaster – we ummed and aaaahed and stalled and sounded as if our IQs had plummeted to previously unknown depths. Our mouths went dry and panic well and truly set in.

So we went back to Annabel’s house to practise again. And again. And  – well, you get the picture. Slowly but surely, we could at least get our words out with some semblance of normality. But our nerves were getting the better of us – it felt like we were in a fog. All too soon it was time to drive to The Quince Tree at Stonor.

We squeezed in about five trips to the loo before it was time to walk on to the stage with Lucy, our interviewer. She was, in stark contrast to us, extremely relaxed and that really helped to calm us all down and get on with our stage debut.

Being a Henleyite, Annabel knew quite a few of the people who came to see us, which – on top of the rogue incisor, was an added pressure for her: “I was also worried that everyone had a good time, audience, my family, Lucy and my fellow CW’s. That is my character ie I never want to let people down. I didn’t imagine the audience naked as planned and I didn’t look at them until the audience question time and by then we were all so relaxed.”

Ellie’s worst fear – the dreaded hot flush (or power surge as one wit in the audience put it) did, unfortunately happen:”It was awful, awful, awful. I could only take my shawl off one shoulder for air as it was cleverly hiding my muffin top, but its removal didn’t even touch the sides; in the end I came pretty close to taking my clothes off altogether and jumping into the nearest bucket of ice but of course all I really had to do was wait patiently until the moment passed which of course it eventually did, PHEW!”

Once we got into the swing of it, it really was an enjoyable experience. We were lucky to have such a lovely attentive audience (with the possible exception of the gentleman in the second row who was fast asleep for the last twenty minutes and something of a distraction if you happened to glance in his direction). Best of all, lots of people came up to chat with us afterwards – it really was a fantastic finale to our day. That and the three glasses of Sauvignon and a cheeky cigarette we sneaked outside afterwards.

Last but not least, we would like to say a big thank you to everyone who came to see us on Friday – we couldn’t have done it without you!

Have a lovely Sunday, Grace x


p.s. If Annabel’s front tooth holds fast, she’ll be representing The CountryWives on BBC Radio Berkshire’s Anne Diamond Show at midday on Monday 1st October.

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