Excerpt from my journal:
9th December 1989
It is 5.00 in the morning and I can’t sleep. I should be grabbing what sleep I can because I’m going to need all my energy today but I am beside myself! This afternoon and evening, as understudy, I am taking over from Kate Normington who is ill, and playing the lead role of Guinevere in Camelot at the State Theatre in Pretoria. Yes, yes, I know that I haven’t been given a dress or a technical rehearsal but I will be incredible, I know it. Please, dear Lord, could You watch over me today? Let me throw my nerves to one side and sing and act like a dream!
I am getting up to make myself some coffee now. At 6.00 am I must phone my baby sister, Megs, and wish her a Happy 18th Birthday! Glory, how can my little Megs already be 18? And then this day truly begins! I cannot let myself down. I will not let myself down! I know all the songs and dances. I must remember to enjoy myself!
Tomorrow morning, I will write all about today’s performances. WHOOPEEEEEEE!!!!!!!!!
Excerpt from my journal:
9th December 2021
It has been 32 years since that life changing appearance onstage.
Thirty-two years since that young understudy stood in the wings awaiting her entrance. Her heart must have been beating madly. The music reached a certain point and she ran onto the stage.
“Saint Genevieve, Saint Genevieve, it’s Guinevere, remember me?….’ she sang.
How I wish I could remember that performance. Unfortunately my whole Camelot experience is wiped from my memory. But I believe that on 9th December 1989, I was FAN-bloody-TASTIC!!!
I am amazed at how many people remember hearing about my fall. I fell 18 metres down an unguarded lift shaft. Apart from broken limbs, ribs, a punctured lung, broke bones in my face, I suffered terrific brain damage. This resulted in me being deaf, having 40% eyesight and being spastic down my right hand side.
I am astonished at how quickly life can alter. I was a fairly good actress. I hoped that with time, I could mature into a superb one. I planned to get married, have children and continue acting. Indeed, the future beckoned. With one incorrect step, all of that changed.
But today I am not wanting to dwell on everything that went wrong all those years ago. There is too much that is going right at present. Too much to be grateful for!
My heart softens in appreciation when I think of my parents and family. I knew the one thing I need never doubt was their love and support. I put them all through so much and there was never a complaint. After my fall, I used to have these red faced tantrums because I wished to go back to Johannesburg and act. Can you believe it? I was obviously refusing to look at what I had become.
And yet, four years after my fall, I made it back onstage in my one woman show My Plunge to Fame. This was all due to Maralin Vanrenen. She had directed me as an actress and knew what I was capable of achieving. She now directed me in my show My Plunge to Fame. In it, I was not acting. Those days were over. I was performing as Gaynor Young telling my story. My fall affected me in so many ways. I was now unable to memorise lines but I knew what I needed to say. And say it I did but in a different way each performance. It must have been heart stopping for M. I am so grateful for her belief in me. Her trust and love!
Since my fall, even after receiving my Cochlear Implants, watching television is still difficult for me. It is incredibly awkward to lip read, and accents are a real challenge. And so I have subtitles on everything I watch. On DSTV there are only about seven channels that have subbies. As a result I find myself enjoying Netflix. Recently I had to phone my audiologist, Jenny Perold with an issue with my CI’s. My problem sorted out, Jen said to me: “How is your TV Streamer going?”
This is a small black speaker which I’d placed next to my television.
“It doesn’t work for me, Jen. I have put it next to my TV and it makes no difference whatsoever.”
In exasperation, Jenny explained that there was more to it than that. So my friend, B and I dragged out my Cochlear Implant haversack from under my bed. We read through the TV Streamer manual. There certainly was much more to it than I had anticipated. We had to pair both Cochlear Implants to the Streamer. I loved doing this because of the bright blue sparkle that appeared on the Cochlear Implant’s control panel. B then took my phone which has the Nucleus Cochlear Implant Smart App on it. She fiddled around some more and then said to me: “Okay, switch the television on now.”
I did and sat down in shock. I could hear every word that was spoken. Every single word! The sound rolled deliciously around in my head.
“I can hear it!” I said to myself watching a re-play of Survivors.
“Switch it off, B”, I said to this beaming, magical elf. (She is very small!)
She touched my cell phone again and instantly the sound in my head was gone. The picture still remained on the television but the sound was off.
“So there’s no way that I can come and watch TV with you. You take all the sound into your head with you,” B joked.
A couple of months ago, my neighbour upstairs sent me an SMS asking me if I would mind turning my television down. I was mortified and since then have been incredibly careful with my volume. Now there is no need. I can have the television blaring LOUDLY in my head. I am the only one that can hear it. And I can hear it like never before!
Recently my friends and I were walking in the forest. I stopped to catch my breath. Leah and I sat on the trunk of one of my favourite trees, a Belhambra. Around us the stunning trees gazed regally down. I looked far up at their leafy boughs and beyond to the bits of blue sky poking inquisitively through. Then I closed my eyes and listened. I listened to the silence of the silence….which was cacophonous in it’s sounds. Leah seemed to be listening too. Having been embedded in silence for eighteen years and then re-granted my hearing through my Cochlear Implants, listening is now a vital part of living for me. I heard so many different birds all trying to outcall each other. The sound of the wind rustling the differing leaves together. Our surroundings were murmuring and softly playing a gentle hymn all their own. I have not been going to church because of Covid. But church is wherever you find God. I was so aware of His presence that morning in the forest. My heart smiled. Thank You, thank You for giving me this!
Today, my sister, Megs turns 50! That’s a long way from the 18 she turned 32 years ago. May your fifties bring you so much jubilance, excitement, contentment and happiness, my special ‘young one’!!!
Recently my friend, Andre Hattingh, made a list of all the performers and creators who have died over the past two years. Presently it numbers 139. So many of them were dear, cherished friends. It has made me aware that I must grab each moment of this wonderful life I live and shout: Yes! Yes, I love the experience of living!
And I intend to do it with vigour, tenderness, awareness, joy and most of all, love!
Art Garfunkel says it so perfectly in his song: Grateful
I’ve got a roof over my head
I‘ve got a warm place to sleep
Some nights I lie awake counting gifts
Instead of counting sheep
I’ve got a heart that can hold love
I’ve got a mind that can think
There may be times when I lose the light
And let my spirits sink
But I can’t stay depressed
When I remember how I’m blessed
Truly grateful I am
And duly grateful
In a city of strangers
I got a family of friends
No matter what rocks and brambles fill the way
I know that they will stay until the end
I feel a hand holding my hand
It’s not a hand you can see
But on the road to the promised land
This hand will shepherd me
Through delight and despair
Holding tight and always there
Truly grateful I am
And duly grateful
It’s not that I don’t want a lot
Or hope for more, or dream of more
But giving thanks for what I’ve got
Makes me happier than keeping score
In a world that can bring pain
I will still take each chance
For I believe that whatever the terrain
Our feet can learn to dance
Whatever stone life may sling
We can moan or we can sing
Truly grateful I am
And duly grateful
And duly grateful.
How wonderful that you have that journal entry. But more than that, how wonderful that you are still a role model for gratefulness. I will always admire you Gaynor – my neighbour of long ago in Burnage.
Dearest Gaynor You are such a huge inspiration to so many people!
Wishing you a truly Blessed Christmas.
Oh Gaye, this blog has made me weep buckets. Not just tears of despair about what happened 32 years ago, but also happy tears at the joy you find in everything. And sentimental tears reading the Art Garfunkel song. I just want to say that you WERE brilliant as Guinevere, I know!! And your recovery is brilliant and everything you do today is brilliant. You are my inspiration on days when I am feeling sorry for myself, or when life seems a little grey. You are my brilliant friend and I love you to the moon and back.
As always, a beautiful, heartfelt written blog! I am so proud of you! Words have such power and strength and you use them well. I hope that your lunch today was a perfect “full stop” to this day in celebrating life.
Love and big, life-giving hugs, Sue. xx
You remain a source of joy and complete inspiration darling Gaynor.
I love that you focus on tue positive things in life and I for one am grateful for YOU!
Dearest Gaynor – what an extraordinary life you have had up to this day! To read of your hopes and despite your nerves at knowing you’ve not even had a tech rehearsal – your absolute fearlessness at seizing this opportunity. That sums up the kind of person you are and with or without you knowing it, you are an inspiration to so many people – friends, family and complete strangers alike.
I remember being totally devastated that day when Carrie called me to tell me the news. I was doing panto in Exeter in SW England at the time and could do nothing but pray for you. I flew over the day after we finished to be with you and your family. I remember I wanted to propose to you – my delightful innocent love for you was suddenly and abruptly shaken into the reality that I’d nearly lost you forever. I remember you gently letting me down – you had moved on and had so much more to deal with as you fought your way back to life! I even celebrated my 30th birthday with you and your family – I’d forgotten it!
That you have so much love for life and gratitude for each and every day – is both a wonder and a blessing!
Take care of yourself. My love to you and your mum, always.
I love reading your blogs and they are truly heartfelt. You really have grasped your opportunities when they came and appreciated the moments of stillness and beauty in the things around you. Life is for living and you are an inspiration.
I love your ongoing positive attitude towards life. When I think I have challenges and obstacles to navigate I must remind myself that human nature can overcome most of what is placed in front of oneself. Thanks for the blog, it’s always a joy to receive.
Beautifully written dear Gaynor, you are one special lady xx
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