My Parcel, my Rules

And so, to my weekend awakening. 

A couple of days listening to insanely talented people. 

Amy Wadge and Mika on my iPhone most of the way from LA to New York (I think Love You When I’m Drunk might be my favourite song of all time, Mika); performances by Michael Feinstein and my friends Lyn Mackay and Phillip Arran at Feinstein’s/54 Below; catching up with the faultless TV show that is Suits.

I want to sing. I want to act. I want to perform. I want it all. But you know what I realised? I’m missing what’s right in front of my nose. I’m a writer. I’ve always been a writer. It’s what I do best and, more to the point, it’s the gift I’ve been given. 

So what I need to do is sit down and smell the roses that were handed to me. Enjoy the gift that fell into my lap and stop trying to hijack the ones that were given to others. Pass the parcel.

Now, at the risk of sounding like a real numpty for deconstructing that seemingly innocent childhood party game, I’m going to try anyway.

My close friend Julia (we’ve known each other since we were foetuses; she’s like a sister to me) had a birthday party for her twin boys, then aged four. I was put in charge of music during Pass the Parcel and had my back to the kids. I was quickly admonished for turning the music off as and when I chose, parents telling me that so and so would cry if he/she didn’t get to unwrap a layer; worse, that one child had to get the final gift or the whole party would be ruined by her tantrum.

WHAAAAAAAT? Pass the Parcel is fixed? Why had it taken me over 40 years to work this out? Was that the real reason I never got the prize when I was growing up? Because, having won everything else (Musical Chairs? My arse could hit a seat at 50mph), I was prevented from winning yet another game and outdoing the Also Rans?

I am mega competitive; I always have been. It’s strange, coming from a background in which girls of my generation were encouraged to go into teaching because you could (a) be at home at the end of the day to cook for your offspring (b) return to work when you have sprouted your own offspring, and (c) . . . well, any other excuse to keep you away from the real work that men did.

It genuinely never occurred to me that Pass the Parcel was fixed. Cheating is totally off my radar; that’s why I am easily conned. When I went to see David Essex in Godspell in 1971, I bought a glow-worm from a street seller in Carnaby Street. Five whole pounds it cost me, my entire budget for the day. 

It was brilliant. It ran all over the seller’s body and, at 12 years old and in London for the first time, I was mesmerised. When I got on the bus to travel back to Bridgend, I cried as the six inch piece of fluff sat limply in my lap, alongside a piece of paper with the instructions, “Attach a piece of invisible thread to yourself and the glow-worm and watch it squirm”, or words to that effect.

Gullible? Stupid? Naïve? I just like things to be what they say they are on the tin. It’s called honesty. I’d be a s**t prosecutor.

Back to Pass the Parcel. Cheating aside, it’s a rather interesting metaphor for life. We have our chances and we can take them or lose them. We can look sadly on when other people get to unwrap what seems to have been handed to them effortlessly.

Or we can Pass the Parcel that was never meant for us in the first place. Yes, I have performed and I love it. But I will never be an Amy Wadge or a Mika. What I can do is enjoy the gifts that others have been given without wishing to have or try to have those same treasures. I can admire without wishing to covet.

Because, and this hit me like (forgive the cliché) lightning over this weekend: I already have my parcel. I’m a writer. And I’m a damned special one. I am lucky enough to have unwrapped my parcel very early in life and I am so grateful that there is not one day that I wake up wishing to be someone else. 

To be honest, I don’t know how anyone can bear not to be me.

There are enough parcels to go round. 

Music, maestro! Now get off that chair before I throttle you.