How a musical about shoes and drag queens made me cry

It has been twenty years since I have seen a musical. But I saw one today, in London.

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The main reason I went to see it was because the songs were by a singer I like- Cyndi Louper. I like her energy, her quirkiness.

Before I went, I spoke to a friend who saw it before. She said it was a silly musical about shoes, not at all intellectual. “You will most likely not want to see another musical for another twenty years.” she said.

I expected a light, forgettable entertainment, nothing more.

But I got a surprise. It is a strange story of a shoemaker who starts making different type of shoes, high heeled boots for male cross dressers. Apparently, it is a real story, although different to the musical. Here is a link:

http://www.express.co.uk/life-style/life/600025/Kinky-boots-factory-WJ-Brookes

The music was OK but not amazing.

But the musical was not about shoes. It was about accepting people like Lola- an outrageous male Drag Queen for what they are. It was about tolerance, and adapting, and changing opinions.

I like that. And very surprisingly, it made me cry. I rarely cry at films or theatre, but I seem to cry at surprising productions. I remember that when I saw the film “Truman show” which was supposed to be a comedy, I started crying and could not stop.

Well, today, I only cried a little.

Some quotes:

“Accept people for what they really are”

“You can change the world if you change your opinion!”

Deeper than you might expect in a “silly musical about shoes”, ha?

Don Giovanni- an opera about sexual attraction

 

mozart

Sometimes you read a book, see the play or opera again after many years, and it is completely different. With books, the change is probably in the reader, it happened to me many times. The book was the same, I was a different person to when I read it first.

It happened to me in Prague with Don Giovanni.

I saw it in the same theatre where it premiered on 29th October 1787.

I know the opera well, I saw it about 25x with my first boyfriend, an opera singer, who loved it, and in Covent Garden with a friend this July, but this production was very different. Two young male directors, rather bold. I like bold. It was fantastic albeit rather controversial.
Worked for me, but they were almost having sex on the stage. There was a scene when Don Giovanni is seducing the rather flirty Zerlina, but you are not completely sure who is seducing whom. Zerlina removes and then puts on again -no nudity seen, this is opera- bright red panties, as a powerful sexual symbol. The scene of Don Giovanni and Zerlina was rather erotic, although they were again fully dressed. Zerlina in this production was not a poor seduced peasant girl, she was a young woman who is having fun and who was clever enough to get away with it.
It was all somehow tongue in cheek, you almost sympathised with Don Giovanni, because he was smart and rather charming albeit non-scrupulous. It made sense, why would all those women fall for him if not for his charm?!  The others- Elvira, Donna Anna, Masetto, seemed, somehow a bit stupid. More moral, but rigid, their characters rather uni -dimensional.

Leporello and Zerlina were not. They were smart and witty. It made me think about how revolutionary having smart peasants or servants was in 18th century.

It is the same in Marriage of Figaro. Of course, Pierre de Beaumarchais who wrote the original play was thrown to the Bastille for it by an offended Louis XVI. Even as an opera, the text is pretty revolutionary. I knew that, but somehow, I never noticed this with Don Giovanni before.

I loved it and the singing was very good, too. I love going to Prague, see all those old places and old friends. If you have never been, try it!

And nope, I am not being paid by the Czech Tourist board.

http://www.narodni-divadlo.cz/en/show/5693

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Don_Giovanni

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Nope, it is NOT Erotica

book blogToday, I looked at my book Amazon page and found two nice reviews that I did not know about. I never look. One recent, one a year old. From strangers.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Lucie-Nov%C3%A1k/e/B00LFSJ2PU/ref=sr_tc_2_0?qid=1475092573&sr=1-2-ent

 Here is what they said:

4.0 out of 5 stars

Interesting, Good Read

By Some Chick on August 4, 2016

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase

This is an interesting book. I enjoyed the voice of the storyteller and her pragmatic way of speaking. This isn’t a naughty erotica story. It’s a novel about a 50-something woman’s awakening in her own life. It doesn’t just cover sex, which she finally learns to enjoy. This book shows the personal growth of a strong woman taking charge of her life. I especially liked the titbits taking me into thoughts and memories of communist Prague. I’m looking forward to more by this author.

the next one

5.0 out of 5 stars

Great book

By Brad Powellon September 13, 2015

Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase

This book is fascinating, the writer does a great job describing this awesome stories.

I highly recommend this book, a must read.

 It is so nice when readers review a book, I should do it more often. And my readers have been very kind.

It made me think about the only bad review I had.  This negative review amused me, because the reviewer, a man, said:

 “It’s only potential value is as a primer on how to *not* write erotic literature. “

laughing-smiley-face-clip-art-smiley-face-clip-art10 (1)Funny !

The reason why it was funny was the fact that although my book has a lot of sex in it- so has life- it is by no means Erotica. I would be indeed more worried if it was praised as erotic literature.

I looked up Erotica definition:

Erotic literature comprises fictional and factual stories and accounts of human sexual relationships which have the power to or are intended to arouse the reader sexually.

Well, my book has sex in it, lots of sex. But life often has a lot of sex in it. I really do not think my chapters about sex have the power to arouse the reader sexually.

But even if they do, they were not intended to arouse the reader sexually.

So no, IT IS NOT EROTICA! And yes, I am shouting.

I do not like books being pigeon holed into genres anyway. But “A Woman with (no) Strings Attached” is a love story. It is also about politics, dating, breaking taboos, and about self- discovery.

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A reader wishing to be sexually aroused would be disappointed.

And that is a good thing!

My Plans:

I am thinking about editing my first book a bit, making it shorter, and then publishing both parts together, maybe even dividing it all into a trilogy.

I am parting company with Authoright, but the action from their side is painfully slow.I am getting a bit impatient. But it will happen.

I am going to Prague, my native city for two weeks, so won’t have time for writing anyway.

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Losing prejudices is hard, but I have managed to lose one

Ever since June, I like groups of other women more.

This summer, I got a revelation. I never liked being in a group of other women, I always had female and male friends, but if it was a group, I always preferred to be with men, or in a mixed group. Somehow, I found men easier. They seemed more direct, less manipulative, nicer.

Then I joined Women reading aloud Writer’s retreat in Greece in June.Apart from me, they were all American ( one Canadian). Are the Americans nicer?

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I blogged about it, remember?

https://luciemuses.wordpress.com/2016/06/20/i-am-starting-to-think-i-am-a-writer/

Those women were different. It was not the fact that they were all smart and educated, most of my friends are. It was the fact that they were kind, non-judgemental, tolerant, and such fun to be with!

Last week, one of the writer’s group, Joanie came to visit me. She was coming to Europe, and asked if she could “pop in”.

She left today.

I had three days of company of a quirky, smart, nice woman, and we felt as if we were old friends.

We talked almost non-stop, but we also listened.

I listened to something she wrote, she started reading my book.

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I feel  really close to all those other women from the retreat. I cannot wait to go again next year.

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One of my prejudices- against women’s groups is gone.

Losing prejudices is always a good thing!

Thank you, all!

 

 

Fact or fiction?

heart-1078771_960_720Do you remember Flaubert’s ” Madame Bovary, c’est moi”?

All writing is autobiographical. Sometimes it is obvious, sometimes less so. Often we never know.

Is Junot Diaz book “This is how you lose her” autobiographical? Is “Junior” Junot Diaz? Or is he a complete imaginary character?

When I wrote my first book, I was advised to present it as memoir. Memoir of Lucie Novak. I used the same name for the character as for my pen name to make it more authentic.

Is Lucie me? Yes, and no. The book has many autobiographical features. Most of the characters are real people. Lucie and Tom, the main protagonists, their personalities and some of their stories reflect me and the man I love. The story is different. Some of it is true, some of it is fiction.

It is not my memoir, it is a memoir of Lucie Novak, a woman with my brain and my personality, but her life is different to mine in some aspects. It is a novel based on a memoir. Is mixing true and fiction deceitful? I don’t think so. They say: “All is fair in love and war”. Maybe there is a third one- literature.

I just finished my sequel. It will take some time before I will publish it. It is a draft.Same characters, different story. Story which explores a “What if?”.What if the two characters split up and led separate lives? The working title of my sequel is “On their own”.They are alone, but carrying each other inside. Who knows, they might come together again. My characters have done what I was told book characters do. Have a life of their own, write themselves.

Lucie is still me, but leads a different life, makes different decisions. Tom’s life changes, and it is interesting to see where he is going.

It is such fun to write this! I hope it will be fun to read, too.Like this one:

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Letter to my dead mother

Stethoscope-3

I am writing this letter to my dead mother in English. I find English easier to write. We used to speak Czech most of the time, but she always used to ask me to switch to English so that she could learn. Even at 89, she was a very determined pupil. My mother liked to learn. I lacked the patience for those English conversations, her English was not good enough, and she was a bit hard of hearing, and that is always more prominent in a foreign language. Guessing is harder. But occasionally, I spoke to her in English to please her.

But now she is dead, she is never going to read this letter, I do not believe in afterlife. So I will write it in the language that is easier for me.

The relationship with my mother was always complicated, ambiguous. They say you grieve more in those circumstances. Do I grieve more?

Maybe, I grieve for a relationship we never had. I regret certain things.

Friends and relatives tell me that I treated my mother much better than she treated me.  They are probably right. Doesn’t help.

There is one regret that keeps coming back to me.

I never thanked my mother for making me go to medical school.

I blogged about the story before.

https://luciemuses.wordpress.com/2015/01/21/how-skiing-was-one-of-the-reasons-why-i-became-a-doctor/

You really need to read that blog to understand why I am writing this letter.

Letter to my mother who made me study medicine, and enabled me to become a family doctor, the best job I can imagine. I loved my work. And yet, I never thanked her. I did not want to give her the satisfaction.

And now she is dead. And really, I am writing the letter for myself.

Dear mother,

This is a thank you letter that is coming too late. When you forced me to go to medical school, I resented that. The only reason I did not drop out of medical school were my new friends, and being a member of the University skiing team. I was not interested in the course, and only did well because of my good memory. Memory that I inherited from you. I suppose I should thank you for that, too.

After graduation, in hospital jobs, nothing changed, I worked for the money, and because I needed a job, but I found it boring.

But then, I became a GP, and everything changed. I loved my work, the puzzles, mysteries, every patient was a problem to solve. I loved the variety, the personal relationships with my patients and their families. It was fun. All those stories. I am a curious woman, and people told me things. It was the best job I could imagine.

When we emigrated, it was hard, but it was much easier for me to find a job because doctors are needed everywhere.  You often talked about it, how it was good that I was a doctor, I have a safe job, enough money, and you irritatingly never forgot to mention how you cleverly manipulated me into going to medical school with a promise that I might do something like history of medicine, and not work as a doctor at all.

You told that story so many times…I heard it, and either changed the subject or said that I can imagine better jobs than being a doctor.

I was lying, but I did not want to give you the satisfaction.

So the years went by, and I never told you that I loved my job, and that you were right. I never told you “Going to medical school was a good idea Thanks for making me go.”

 Did you know that was what I was thinking? Not sure. You repeatedly asked for my recognition of the benefits of being a doctor, I repeatedly denied it.

We were in a loop.  And now the loop is broken. You died.

So at least I am going to say it now. Mother, I have been grateful for years for you forcing me to become a doctor. I loved my job, and would not have been happy if you let me do what I wanted.

I never thanked you, because I was not magnanimous enough to admit you were right.

Thank you, mother, for making my life misery for two months by constant manipulation, scenes and threats until I relented and not only applied for medical school, but also prepared for the entrance exams. Those two months were painful, probably for you, too.

Thank you for not paying any attention to what I wanted to do instead. It was a manifestation of what I did not like about you, but this time, though I hate to admit it, you were right.

Of course, you would have been right even if I didn’t admit it.

My love of the job, and all those grateful patients are a proof that forcing me was a good thing to do.

I wish I told you when you were still alive. But I didn’t.” Better late than never”, they say.

And while I am writing this letter, another thing. I loved you, mother, and I know you loved me.

I am grieving for you although I was convinced I will be relieved when you die.

Well, maybe I am a bit relieved, too. Relieved that you did not have to suffer a slow undignified deterioration and death. That you, quite literally went with a bang.

Sudden death exactly before you were forced to move from your apartment, the move you detested so much. You did not want to do it, and you did not have to.

No, I KNOW you did not kill yourself, the fall on the stairs that caused your head injury and death was accidental.

But deep in my mind, I feel you died when you wanted to. Don’t we all wish that to happen to us?

Rest in Peace, they say.

Apart from the fact that I REALLY don’t believe in afterlife.

Your daughter

 

 

 

 

 

 

Epitaph of two very different women and how I now know I loved them both.

It is Wimbledon. This year, watching those tennis matches makes me cry.

I used to watch it every year with my mother. This was the time when she used to come on her bi-annual visits to London. We both loved tennis. I once took my mother to the final at Queen’s, she loved every minute of it.

Wimbledon

Tennis was something we could talk about, in our otherwise often tricky conversations.

Conversations with my mother often reminded me of the lyrics of my favourite “Mountain Goats”

“Our conversations are like minefields, / No one’s found a safe way through one yet.”

But tennis was safe.

The only time when tennis was a reason for arguments was when I used to call her on the phone from London. I used to record matches and watch them after work, but despite begging my mother not to tell me the results, she always did. Or at least hinted. And no, I do not think she did it on purpose. Just couldn’t help it.

” But I did not tell you who won, I just said Federer played brilliantly.” 

We used to argue amicably who is better, Nadal-my favourite – or Federer. On the phone, my mother used to describe various points in matches, even if I repeatedly told her I have seen the match, too.

My relationship with my mother was never easy.

She often told me vitriolic, nasty things with the intention to hurt me. I remember her telling me once that I am ugly, wear glasses and nobody will ever marry me… Later, when we spoke about those occasions, she had one excuse: “You annoyed me by doing ….so I wanted to pay you back”. Now I think about it, it was a bit childish. Children do that. Screaming at their parents ” I hate you, I hate you!”  They don’t.

I always knew my mother was reversing the roles. She wanted me to be her support and adviser, ever since I was a child. I tried. I let her win at games, I helped her pick her clothes, gave her advice. Later, when I found out that I then often got blamed when things did not go well, I became more careful with giving advice, and my mother did not like that. I tried to be independent, mature. It never occurred to me to go to my mother when I was upset by something, bullying at school, or something else. On the rare occasions when I did, it ended badly.

What I never realised, and I should have, was that she was damaged by her experiences in the war.

She was 12 when the Nazis invaded. A Jewish child in German occupied Prague, she had her childhood taken away. It started with all those things she was not allowed to do. Travel on public transport, go to school, ride a bicycle. Then a concentration camp and death of a lot of people she loved, her father, brother, grandmother. She watched her beloved grandmother being loaded to a packed cattle wagon to disappear, probably somewhere in a gas chamber. My mother was 18 when the war ended. She was robbed of 6 years of growing up. Emotionally, she never did grow up.

Yet, she was also quite amazing.

Her determination made her do incredible things. She was the only person I know to come from a concentration camp and skip 6 years of school, passing exams in all the subjects of the 8 year’s curriculum (10 of them) and graduating with her class in 1946.

After my father left her for another woman, she went to evening medical school, and became a doctor at the age of 40.

She told a friend that she is not going to become a doctor having my father’s surname. So she put an advert in the paper, met many men, and married one of them, just in time to have a different surname for the graduation from medical school.

Age 86, she learnt how to walk again after severe medical problems when she was left very disabled. Moving from walking only with a Zimmer frame and helpers to walking without a stick and going to the gym. It took her a year of daily exercising at home for 3 hours a day.

The last photo of my mother was taken by somebody from her gym. I phoned them to tell them she died. The man on the phone told me they all loved her. The average age of those gym members was 30, she was 89.

She still did a lot of work at her weekend house, growing potatoes, mowing the lawn with a heavy petrol lawnmower.

She had the determination of a small child to do everything on her own, she did not like people helping her to get on and off the public transport and carrying things for her.

She never gave up. “Everything is possible if you try”.

For her, this was true.

We had a difficult relationship. Did I like my mother? No, I didn’t. I always joked about the shame of not being able to divorce her.

But did I love her? Yes, I did probably. I admired a lot about her. She was a survivor.

She had the knack of achieving the impossible.

My mother died last month.

Head injury, falling down the stairs. She was just going to have to move to another apartment because of the house where she lived was undergoing reconstruction.

She did not want to move. In the end, she did not have to. She died three days before the moving.

Maybe she did what we all probably want to do. She died when she wanted to.

Regrets? Yes, many.

I regret not having been close to her. I regret disappointing her in lots of things. I regret never being able to make her stop hurting me and pushing me away, and learning how to love her. I feel as if I in some way  failed as a daughter.

But she failed as a mother. We both failed.

And now she is dead.

But did we fail?

 Now, a month after her death, I started remembering the nice things. Watching tennis with her, taking her shopping, buying her clothes she liked, but she found too expensive. I remember how proud she was of my career. I remember those rare moments when we got on, the laughs.I remember how despite being very difficult to live this, she was always there for me in a crisis. I remember her generosity.

 

 I should have been more understanding once I was an adult.

 

But there was a reason behind this.

I had an example of my grandmother, my mother’s mum Hana.

She was an amazing woman. The worst what could have happened had happened to her already. Death of her husband, son, mother, many other relatives. 2 years in a concentration camp.

The experience made her laid back, optimistic, calm in crisis. ” We have seen worse things!”, she said.

She was a complete contrast to my mother, never histrionic, no scenes, kind and level headed. She was supportive and loving to my mother, she run our household, she looked after my mum as if she was a child. Maybe that was also the reason why my mother never grew up.

My grandma was from a very wealthy family, and had a privileged life till the war. But after the war, she once told me how she is enjoying not having servants and being able to shop and cook, not having to behave like a lady. This was the early sixties, long queues in shops…she looked at everything from the bright side.

My mother loved her, and claimed she only survived the camp because she was with her mother. I think it was true.

So I had the example of my grandmother, and wanted to be like her. I did not realise she was unusual.

I compared my selfless stoical grandmother to my mother, and found my mother immature, histrionic, self-centred. But my grandmother did not get robbed of her childhood by the Nazis.

I knew I loved my grandmother.

I did not know if I loved my mother and if she loved me.

But clearing her apartment, I found she kept all my letters, from the time I was a child. Despite my horrible handwriting.

If she did not love me, why did she keep those letters?

And if I did not love her, why watching Wimbledon makes me cry, because I regret not being able to discuss the matches with her?

I should have been more forgiving, because she was damaged, and it was not her fault.

And I do not want to be damaged, so I will work on it.

I want to be a good mother, and friend, and maybe grandmother one day. I do not want to transfer the damage to the next generation like my mum did.

I will always admire and love my grandmother Hana, but maybe that by being so strong, she made other people around her weaker. She looked after them.

And I also admire my mother Eva, who never quite grew up, but who never gave up, and often achieved the impossible.

I loved them both, I just didn’t know it.

They are both buried in the New Jewish cemetery in Prague. It is a melancholy beautiful place.

Prague-New-Jewish-Cemetery

 

And I am kind of writing this in a blog for all those among you who are not sure if you love your parents.

You probably do, you just don’t realise it. And they love you.