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I saw a Cavaquinho for sale in a shop window in Sao Paolo.
It was about the most beautiful instrument I had ever seen.
Glossy like a boiled sweet.

Samba, the Samba of Sao Paolo, was a complete and utter revelation to me.
Coming from Cornwall where one might be mistaken for thinking every local festival HAS to have a Samba Band thumping along the street at some point BY LAW, the Brazilian music I heard was from another planet.

I don’t play the cavaquinho and probably never will.
I saw it being played with such skill by so many people out there, no way I could do justice to the sound.

We had a banjo on the wall when I was growing up.
I remember it being played twice.

I took piano lessons for ages as a child. After what must have been years, I got through to the end of ‘Teaching Little Fingers To Play’ and shut the book, never to be opened again.

Music was something other people did.

It was always embarrassing when part of a theatre company, to be devoid of any performance skills at all.
I say embarrassing, I was not supposed to have any, it would have gone against the grain somewhat if I had.

Our job as Stage Managers was to create a safe environment for performers to work in.

It was a good job, part alarm clock, part policeman on a bad day, really exciting and challenging on other days.
I liked that people came to me and I would try to help solve any problem.
I hated that people would come to me and expect me to solve every problem.
In the end the problems all boiled down to a breakdown in communication somewhere.
Given that the industry is all about communication, this could get tiring.

I loved theatre.
I was fairly well discouraged from starting a career in theatre but I spent the best part of twenty years doing it.
I wasn’t brilliant in the job, I just tried to be on time and not go too mad.
For the most part it worked and I stayed in employment.

It was a small world of tight families, put together for a few months and then disbanded.
Really very intense at the time.
Nothing to talk about afterwards.

I have many friends in Theatre but unless I am working with them we don’t have much to talk about when I first see them again.
Work was everything.
It was why I got out of bed each day.
I wanted to be in there, drinking it in, feeling the day, helping things happen.
You could feel the mood of the company.
You could watch the big personalities.
You could build through the day to the show and if it was a good show, that you believed in, there was nothing better.

I loved moments of silence in a full theatre, when hundreds of people would hold their breath in a moment together.
I loved the moment of opening a show and the final sweep up at the end.
I loved being dog tired, in the clothes you slept in, seventy hours into the week and no let up with two shows and a session of tech to get through and knowing that you were part of the team that could make that happen.
I loved the empty theatre when everyone had gone home.
I loved the pub and the stories of falls, drops, accidents and the wit of the people the public never see.
I loved being nine feet tall and walking down the street, knowing I was on the best show in town.

I did not tour much, relative to other Stage Managers I knew, but it did take me to some brilliant places.

Sao Paolo is one of the biggest cities in the world.
We were on our way to a tower with a viewing platform at the top.

When we got up there we could see the city for miles in every direction.
If every window we could see was one person…
If every building we could see was one person…
If…no I could not quite take it in.

And it made me think about how small my little theatre ship was and how vast, how unutterably vast the human race is.
And it made me think about my real family, thousands of miles away.

And I realised that everything had to change because the world is so big and we are so small and in the end who would notice if we were not here any more?

My vision of the world was centred around me. Here I could see a million homes.

Would I even make the papers out there in Brazil if I ceased to be in that instant?

The people who would miss me were no where near at all.

It was not just me.

We were a bit quiet when we came down.

I determined that I would leave something behind with the people I love most.
Walking back through the city to the station later on, one of the musicians told me not to buy the cavaquinho or anything else as a souvenir to hang on a wall.
He told me to save my money, buy a ukulele and learn to play.

“Like a cavaquinho for idiots”

He told me to learn to play so I could teach my kids.
He said they would not care if I was any good or not, just that it would be fun.

Because the best audience of all were back at my house and I should bring give them everything.

I don’t work in theatre any more.
I am not nine feet tall any more.
I do still try to make a difference to an audience.
I play ukulele really badly, to the Proles every night while they have a bath.

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