Thursday, 10 March 2011

Knock, knock, who's there?

I will spend all of today day in disguise and there will be no room for self pity or tears because today I have secured the role of a stereo-typical middle class mother of three children who go to independent school.

My character lives in an enormous, shabby chic fifteenth century manor house overlooking a village green. She takes a pride in her appearance and plays an active part in the local community.  Her two grown up daughters from her first marriage, who live locally, have provided her with four grandchildren and two step grandchildren and this extended family gives her many opportunities to socialise over a meal which she is happy to cook.  She regularly serves up on a table that started its life in the board room of her father but now has many happy family memories associated with it.

An aging mother, with whom she has a good relationship, lives in the nearby market town. My character visits regularly, taking her out for day trips whenever she can find  time.  She has a 4x4 parked on the extensive gravel drive and people usually talk to her wherever she goes because she is always smiling. She has many friends and is reputed to be a good and caring listener who will always find time to help a friend in need.  It is because of the personable way she has with people she was the perfect recruit for Chairman of the Friends of her children's prep school and the Headmaster was delighted to welcome her on board.

It is the day of the  Friends fund raising fashion show and there is an air of nervous excitement amongst the new committee members as the time approaches for the doors to open. The role I am playing today will not be too difficult because I have, in recent years, rehearsed it well. However these days stage fright haunts me.  I am told this is only natural and certainly not unexpected for someone playing a character part to such a large audience. However, I still worry I will be exposed as a fraud.

Only three short years ago I was not a fictitious character and this was my life and I believed it was bought and paid for.  Today I appear to enjoy a life like this but in reality it is no more. Now my children remain at private their schools because of the kindness of their headmaster’s who have secured them all bursaries.  The car parked in my drive has been moments away from repossession and the house we live in is rented while much of the furniture in it has been donated by family and friends.  Its lofty rooms are not just for my own use as sharing it with three lodgers is the only way in which I can make ends meet and my beautifully coiffured hairdo is a wig as I lost every hair on my head when the shock of our financial position came to light. My clothes have been carefully purchased from charity shops with pocket money gievn to me by my mother.

The friends I speak of have propped me up because I could barely stand from shock and the good relationship with my mother has developed in spite of my husband borrowing £55,000 from her that she could ill afford to lose but has.  My grown up children now make a contribution to the costs whenever I cook and the food I purchase comes from the M&S waste sale, at a fraction of the usual price, where my husband now works as a warehouseman.

A refugee from the past, I stand reborn in a new life which has been carefully reassembled from the tatters of the old. It may well appear I have made a seamless transition but, each and every day, I wonder how much longer I can remain undetected in this well practised charade. Surely someone will spot the devastation in my eyes while my face smiles and then I will be painfully outed.  What can I possibly say today if someone looks at me and asks, "Who's there?" when to me I am a 53 year old bald woman whose very core has been mangled by the shame of her husband’s insurmountable business debt.

I wait with trepidation how much longer will I get away with just playing me?

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