Plain Jane 140815 – Bra-vellous project

Plain Jane 140815If we live in a small world then Thanet is microscopic. Hold forth in the pub about the bloke from the garage and it will turn out you’re chatting to “that idiot’s” brother’s cousin or his wife’s next-door neighbour.

Gossip about his affair and you’ll discover you’re looking at the woman he ran away with. It was no surprise, therefore, to find that the chap my friend Ann was on the line to, when I arrived at her house, used to be my bank manager. (In the days when these creatures existed and a simple transaction did not require you to answer six security questions, punch out four different numbers on your telephone keypad, and then listen to terrible music for twenty minutes before someone in Madras cut you off.)

“What are you talking to him about?” I asked nosily, upon hearing Brian Short was now heading up the local branch of the RSPB. “Tits!” she declared. Ah yes, silly me…

Ann Munro is an artist, and the powerhouse behind an “installation” planned for the Ramsgate Festival, which she refers to as “Tits Up” and which will benefit the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds as well as the excellent breast-screening charity EKUBS, mainly so that school children taking part in the project can approach it from a feathered angle, and not give their parents the vapours.

The first I heard of it was when Ann swept into my own kitchen and demanded to know if I had any old bras. Well of course I did – what woman doesn’t? I also had uncomfortable bras, ill-advised ones, saggy-strapped affairs and a super-reinforced, upholstered, uplifting contraption that renders one like Barbara Windsor (not necessarily in a good way).

I emptied the contents of the drawer into a carrier bag and off she went. They were destined to be bunting down Harbour Street, she told me. But oh my goodness, things have moved on since then. Ann, just turned 70 and looking amazing for it, seems to have involved the entire isle in her mission.

There are beaded bras and knitted bras and a bra cake, and scores of teddy bears, each wearing their own specially-decorated brassieres.

Shops, businesses and cafes have donated, sponsored and will be putting on displays. There will be raffles and auctions and workshops. It is going to be huge. “It’s about art bringing people together,” says Ann, “and raising awareness and charity. About people discovering their creativity and showing how art can promote a whole area. It’s also about my ego,” she adds refreshingly. “I’m loving my ‘old age'” Basically, loves, if I might summarise, we’re still talking tits. The beaked, seed-loving sort, naturally…

The artworks will be on display from August 24 to 31. For more information find Ann Munro on Facebook or visit http://www.ramsgatearts.org.

If art can bring people together then so can comedy. In the 1970s, the catchphrase “I didn’t get where I am today…” united a generation, and is still used as a quip over four decades later. It sprang from the genius of David Nobbs, creator of TV series The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin and 20 equally hilarious books, who died last weekend aged 80. I was privileged to interview him, teach with him, and consider him my friend.

He was a lovely, generous, kind, highly intelligent and extremely funny man. And I didn’t get where I am today by not wanting to say so.

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Read the original article at: http://www.thanetgazette.co.uk/Plain-Jane/story-27601909-detail/story.html
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Guildford Day Six

Yes a bit of a delay there but Saturday I was doing a workshop in HMP Send, Sunday I had taken to my bed with Strepsils and Lemsip (the entire population of Guildford seems to have a cold – thanks folks) and then I was waiting for photos with which to illustrate my illuminating and entirely subjective (never mind the rest of the festival – let’s just look at what I did) account of Guilford 2012.
Judy Finnigan and Jane
Judy & Jane – Photo courtesy of James Davies

Monday brought Judy Finnigan at lunchtime – she was great and Richard came too – talking about her intriguing and atmospheric debut novel Eloise. We did forty minutes of chat and then took questions. Mindful of those unable to journey to Guildford, I had invited contributions via Twitter. @missdaisyfrost obliged with a deeply meaningful, profound and erudite enquiry. “How hairy is Richard’s back?” I can confirm to all of you worried about such matters that the answer, straight from Judy’s mouth, is not at all. That’s a relief.

Next up was Kay Burley – she had a cold too. But had had the good sense to come via the chemist. We discovered that a combination of Actifed tablets and white wine will deal with most symptoms or at least render one past caring. I’m not sure what we talked about now –  I expect her new novel, the entertaining Betrayal, got a mention – but we enjoyed it anyway. I won’t include a photo cos streaming eyes and red noses are not a good look.
The evening saw Jenny Eclair who nearly went into meltdown at all the sore throats about the place – she is on tour with her new show Eclairious and needs her vocal chords! Jenny was her usual hilarious self.  She has the wonderful gift of being able to get away with pretty much anything – only she could render the good ladies of Guildford helpless with laughter over a gag about pubic hair – and her new novel Life, Death and Vanilla Slices is well worth a read. My own review here (you’ll need to scroll down a bit).
David and Jane – Photo courtesy of George Parkes

And now I’ll break the rules and talk about someone else other than me and tell you that following us were Kathy Lette and Sandy Toksvig discussing Kathy’s new book The Boy Who Fell to Earth (sweet, sharp, funny, sad, endlessly touching). They were both hysterically funny too. Tho’ as David Nobbs pointed out, the whole evening seemed revolve around menopause and female bodily functions. (Luckily, as he also added, he is not at all squeamish)

He is tho, very, very entertaining. He didn’t really need me at all this morning but I felt  privileged to be sitting there and croaked out the odd question. We talked about his latest tome The Fall and Rise of Gordon Coppinger – a work of bloody genius if I might say so –  his most famous creation, Reggie Perrin, and his long career writing comedy. God Bless Mr Nobbs.
Tomorrow is my last day at the festival and I am hosting a panel of erotic writers (or should that be writers of eroticism??), including Hazel Cushion, MD of Xcite Books – the UK’s largest publisher of steamy tomes. Still time to get a ticket. 9pm (after the watershed) in the cafe bar at the Electric Theatre.
More of that in due course…

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