I hope you are all well and enjoying the year so far. Spring is going to show it’s pretty head soon and it will be no more snowmaggedon (as my friend Claire says). Good job I was at my brothers last week to have a winter coat again and some uggs I bought in a charity shop to keep my feet warm.
It’s been 3 weeks since I got back from Monaco. I’ll always remember my time there. It was truly brilliant. Me and Claire are all bonded and good friends. For that I will be really grateful. Good food, good people, lovely surroundings and lots of laughs.
Since being back in the UK I’ve been to Belgium, back to London, back to my family in the North of England and am now in Derby for the week. It’s really from place to place with my suitcase. The hardest part is getting the suitcase to the next place but apart from that it’s been pretty nice so far. I’m in Derby this week staying with my friend Gaynor. We met last year when I was singing near to Embankment station in London. She stopped for a while and then asked if I could sing some Puccini for her as her dad had always played it to her when she was little. She recorded it for them as her mum has dementia and she said they would enjoy it. We kept in touch, she works in London sometimes so we would meet up when she was down and now I’m here staying for the week, singing a bit in Derby on the streets (think it was a bit of a shock for them today) and on Friday I will sing for her whole family and give them a concert. It’s her parents 62nd wedding anniversary on Saturday. I met her parents today.
So positive. Her dad is amazing. His glass is always full and I came away feeling lifted and happier just from spending a few hours with him, and telling me how beautiful his wife is and how she was like a model when she was younger and what a wonderful lady she is. Just real love around me. Her brother has flown in from Norway for the week too, also telling me how much he loves opera. Humbled and flattered.
It’s strange to not have ‘a home’ as such but at the same time it’s a sense of freedom I’ve never had. I’m having to rely more on people to help me when I’m so used to being self sufficient and not asking for help so much. I don’t think I could have been comfortable with it a few years back but I’m realising sometimes you need help and others are happy to do it. I also know though that I can go anywhere and stay if I want. Airbnb’s can be booked on the day and without a fixed rent to pay it just changes things in my head. I’m not really missing having more things and am fine with what I have in my suitcase. In some ways I keep thinking I still have too much.
I’ve done gigs in Antwerp (back for a 3rd time), sang at a few parties, drank at a few parties, put wigs on my head and dressed up,sang in Brussels (always a top spot), had my singing lessons in London (my teacher is very inspirational and helpful), sang in Kent for the birthday of a 90 year old lady whose daughter had booked me. They made it a 1920’s theme so the men had tuxedos on and the ladies had evening wear on. The lady who booked me told me she is a couture dress maker for Elizabeth Emanuel and was wearing a beautiful jacket she had made. I commented on it and the fabric and she said the fabric came from Chanel. I also chatted to a lady called Cindy for a long time. A real Eastender who remembers them having nothing as kids but everyone sticking together, telling me tales of how it used to be. I get fed and watered everywhere I go, people are offering me lifts, places to stay (someone offered me their place in Paris if I wanted it) and I’m hearing life stories all the time. It’s actually all pretty interesting.
Whilst in London I’ve now started singing in the Underground which was surprisingly ok. I expected it to be more rat race and people not stopping at all but some people did and I came away thinking ‘not so bad’.
My friend Daniella let me stay at her place in Bethnal Green. I know her from British Comedy night in Antwerp and she’s a teacher in London now so we’ve met up a few times and she said I could stay with her for a week. Her house is lovely. Really cosy and welcoming. I find London hard to be in. I just get grumpy with the sheer amount of people and the speed of it all and I’m always waiting until I can leave again, but I want my lessons when I can have them, I like singing in the stations and staying in Bethnal Green helped a lot. Victoria park was on the doorstep and I had a cracking Sunday lunch in a pub in Laurieston Place called ‘The Empress’. The best I’ve had in ages.
My mind is on America and what I’m going to do there. It’s 6 weeks until I go and with not one opportunity in the pipeline I really have no idea what will happen. Half of me wants to rush in now and start contacting people in a panic to make sure I’m in control of it all out of sheer fear that nothing will happen, and the other half is saying you have to trust and go with the flow and do what you can. Not easy to just go and find opportunities. OMG, it is really out of my comfort zone but I have to step out of it and do it. I’m going to try to push the ‘I am British and can sing Julie Andrews stuff’ so I’m making a video of me singing some of her stuff in England and will start sending that out to schools and no idea right now who else but it’s an idea. I’ve also been doing recordings for the agent in America. A demo video and a Mozart track from Come Scoglio which I can send to other people too. The Mozart track I’m actually pretty proud of. Usually I hear myself and want to turn it off straightaway cringing at all the things I hear that are wrong and pound myself into the ground not being a good singer, but I think with this one it’s really the best I can do right now. Tough if it’s not up to scratch. Let me know what you think.
I sang on my own turf all last weekend (love being back up North to sing). Firstly in Romiley, Cheshire for the Little Theatre. About 20 people braved the snow, chose what they wanted and I got this comment at the end of it from 13 year old Sophie.
When people say to me ‘why are you not singing in an opera house or why are you doing this’ I just need them to see comments like this for them to understand why I do it in my way and why I am enjoying it more and more. I was back singing with Oldham Symphony orchestra on Sunday.
Marco, an Italian conductor put together an opera gala. Again, I just loved it. Back with my own people, everyone giving it their all. Romiley have already asked me back in the Summer and Marco has said would I also want to do it again in the future. Yes I would!!!! I get to see my family too and I make sure I get some good northern grub in (you can take the girl out of the North but you can’t take the North out of the girl).
I just feel my life is changing this year. I really was in my cave last year a lot in London, working on inner stuff and clearing a lot of stuff out and this year it’s all about new beginnings, being positive and going with the flow, being humble and enjoying what I am doing, wherever I am. I’m looking forward to doing my Julie Andrews thing. I’m sitting on the train singing along to ‘Do, re, mi (in my head) with a smile on my face. I’m hoping I can get enough people to come along……. (slightly worried about it), but it will be what it is. Me and Claire say you have to plant your seeds wherever you go and walk away and the ones that want to grow will come back to you. The main thing is I’m doing it, but if you want to find out more about what I’m doing follow me on Facebook and if you want to see me in action come to my Julie Andrews gigs . (April 13th and 15th).
Come and sing along and bring your mates, kids, grandkids, granny’s and dogs. Everyone loves a bit of Julie (I’m even learning how to say Supercalifraglisticexpialidocious backwards).
Nicola Mills is Opera for the People at www.iamnicolamills.com