“There was a magic about the sea. People were drawn to it. People wanted to love by it, swim in it, play in it, look at it. It was a living thing that was as unpredictable as a great stage actor: it could be calm and welcoming, opening its arms to embrace it’s audience one moment, but then could explode with its stormy tempers, flinging people around, wanting them out, attacking coastlines, breaking down islands. It had a playful side too, as it enjoyed the crowd, tossed the children about, knocked lilos over, tipped over windsurfers, occasionally gave sailors helping hands; all done with a secret little chuckle”
― Cecelia Ahern, The Gift
I think of how like the sea my life is. It has had so many changes all reflected in the sea. It has had it’s “magical” times; it’s “opening and embracing” times; it’s stormy and “breaking down” times. It has also had it’s quiet, becalmed times. At times it was so becalmed I wanted to churn the water up and get it moving in sheer desperation. I have been carried high on a wave only to be crashed headlong onto some rocks. Then I have been scooped up by the ocean once more. Let me share with you one of the phases of my “sea” life……
I look at the book lying in my lap, My Plunge to Fame by Gaynor Young. It has a picture on the cover of Neil McCarthy and I playing Cassio and Bianca in Othello. We look so incredibly young. I was 27 and just launching into life. So many plans and such great ambitions. I had my accident eighteen months later. Those plans and ambitions changed.
My acting stopped. I became a writer and a motivational speaker. I pick up my book and I think back to the launching of My Plunge to Fame.
And I smile.
I was nearly sick with nerves for the Durban launching of my book. I had to give a speech. Well, Gaynor had been doing her speeches for years, you’re thinking. Yes, that’s true but the speech I had been doing for years was actually my one woman show. And before my show opened, I had four weeks of rehearsal. I had to give a totally new speech at this launch for my book. For weeks beforehand I tossed and turned in bed. I was literally paralysed with fear, trying to unscramble my thoughts about what I was going to say.
It’s pathetic the way I always turn to the Lord in situations like that. When I was an actress, every time I went onstage, my entrance would always be preceded by prayers of extraordinary heat and fervour. A similar situation occurs now that I am a speaker. You can only imagine what they were like when I had to step forward as an author! I didn’t know how to be an author. Authors, I imagined, should be incredibly cool and utter remarks of great philosophical relevance. They should have this dry, cynical wit. Can you honestly see me fitting into that category?! I had to appear as Gaynor Young presenting herself as…well, as…Gaynor Young. Scary! Indeed terrifying!
Laugh! My speech went too wonderfully for words. I didn’t once have to look at my notes. The things that I meant to be funny the audience laughed at and they also cracked up with hilarity at things that I hadn’t meant to be funny. Made me wonder!
At the launch we had an extraordinary turn out of people. Far more than we had anticipated so people had to stand at the back of the room. And they all bought books. Everyone did! And some bought more than one. Some bought three, some five. I know one person that bought ten! I couldn’t actually believe it. They were buying my book!
Carte Blanche, the investigative documentary program, filmed me the whole of the next day. They had a divine crew and I really got on well with Derek Watts, the host. At that stage I had no Cochlear Implants and I was relying on my one hearing aid. (I was totally deaf in my left ear so a hearing aid was not even considered.) I found that by holding a person under the chin I was able to pick up the vibrations of their voice. This helped me a tremendous amount in deciphering what they were saying. I obviously did it with Derek the whole time. I was terrified that I would miss what he was asking me. Afterwards people that saw the programme accused me of flirting dreadfully with him. What utter garbage but I must say that he’s got a beautiful chin to clasp!
My Jo’burg launch also went amazingly. I was even more nervous for that launch than the one in Durban. All of my theatre friends were there. They had known me as an actress, a good actress. I was terrified that I would now dry up and forget what I was going to say or express myself badly. I didn’t want to do that in front of them. But my fears were groundless. As with the Durban launch, it went fantastically.
My entire family was there. Megan had flown out from New Zealand , Liz came up from Cape Town, Mum and Dad from George and Patch was in Johannesburg. They sat in the front row so my eyes instantly fell on them. Mum was crying but knowing Mum that was to be expected. But Dad! He was a complete basket case. I went up on stage, smiled at everyone, looked at my family and saw my Father in this little puddle on the floor. This is the man who fifteen years beforehand was very reticent about showing his feelings! My precious, beloved Father. At the end of my speech I got a standing ovation and everyone in my family was weeping. For them, it seemed to be the final rounding off of my recovery. Des and Dawn Lindberg then sang a song that they had composed for me. Naturally, I couldn’t hear a thing but felt honoured that they had gone to that trouble.
Afterwards I felt positively drunk with happiness. I mingled with all my friends. A few of them I hadn’t seen for absolute ages. Yet they had all turned up, wishing to see me through this new start in my career. When I had my accident, I thought that all my friends would turn their backs on me. They would get bored with having to talk slowly. They would get impatient with having to put up with this spastic child. Oh, ye of little faith, Gaynor! Today I not only have all of my old friends but also a host of new ones.
The next six days were packed full with interviews. I got back to Durban exhausted. But oh, I had had such a full, fun and exciting time. There were fifty-five emails waiting for me. Many of them were people congratulating me on my launches and others were from people who wanted me to speak for them. Wasn’t that exciting?
Throughout our lives we all go through ups and downs. At that moment I was riding high on the crest of this full, massive wave and the feeling was quite exhilarating. I was aware that it would soon run down but that’s was fine. I would just tread water until the next swell gently buoyed me up to the top once more.