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400 Day LETS Odyssey
Copyright � James Taris

JAMES TARIS around the World- (2003-4)

At The Rocky Horror Sing-Along Show with the night's host, Dr Frankenfurter.

ENGLAND - London (Wk.2 of 2 weeks)
Week 27 of World Tour

Rocky Horror Sing-Along Show

Years ago, when I was taking writing lessons from a LETS member, I showed her some of the songs I’d written.

“I’d love to write a musical,” I said. “Like a rock opera.”

“Well, let’s get started,” she said enthusiastically. “If you’re going to write a rock opera, then you may as well go for the best. Something like The Rocky Horror Show!”

Well, that was all a bit too much for me at the time, so, needless to say, my rock opera was never written. But I’ve always held on to that idea. And always held The Rocky Horror Show as the image of excellence, when it came to musical productions.

So when I stumbled across a screening of the Rocky Horror Sing-Along Picture Show in Leicester Square, I was determined to see it. And I did.

Of course, I got there early, so I waited in the foyer while the cinema was being prepared. Also in the foyer were many Rocky Horror followers, dressed as several of the shows stars. They all seemed normal enough, apart from their dress, though their ages were all much younger than mine.

There were audience participation packs on each seat when we walked in. Cards to flash, whistles to blow and words to say at all the appropriate moments.

The night’s host, dressed as Frankenfurter, gave us a crash-course on audience participation, before the movie started. He was wearing make-up that many a lady would die for and fishnet stockings going all the way up his long legs. And he was taller than me, so he was 6 foot something. I was there for the atmosphere rather than the participation, so I chose not to do all the silly stuff. But it was great to see everyone else doing it. OK, so I did some of the silly stuff too, but no-one will ever know.

Although the absolutely best part was singing along with the songs. It was like a giant Karaoke session, with all the lyrics being flashed at the right time, and even colour coded for the boy’s and girl’s lines.

And as I watched I couldn’t help but admire the timelessness of the script and the music. The Rocky Horror Show has been around for over 30 years, and here it was, still drawing in packed houses for a generation which wasn’t even born when it first appeared.

So all night I just lapped it up, and hoped that some of its timeless magic would wash over my writing too.

The locals didn't like the fact that these weird concrete cows stole so much attention from their city's other tourist attractions.

Concrete Cows and the Oware Game

“You’ll get along very well with Peter,” Mary Fee (from LETS Link UK) said, referring to my Milton Keynes LETS host, Peter Hughes. “He’s an Australian like you”.

So when Peter came to pick me up from the railway station, I said, “So, you’re an Aussie!”

“No, I’m not,” he said, in a perfect Aussie accent.

“But you lived in Australia?” I asked.

“No, I’ve never been there,” he said.

“So where are you from?” I asked.

“I’m a kiwi,” he said, finally making sense of it all.

New Zealanders are often classed as pseudo-Australians by everyone except New Zealanders and Australians. Much like Canadians are classed as pseudo-Americans by everyone except Canadians and Americans. And they get really annoyed by people making that sort of error with their nationality. But once we clarified this, it was never an issue again.

Milton Keynes is only a one hour train trip north of London and is the fastest growing area in Europe. It’s predicted that the population will double in the next 20-30 years. And interestingly enough, their greatest tourist attraction is a small herd of black and white (Friesian) concrete cows, permanently fixed on a green pasture beside the city’s river. And this work of art has also made an impact on the Milton Keynes LETS group, which has chosen to call their LETS currency, concrete cows (cc’s).

No sooner had I dropped off my luggage at Peter’s place, than we were off to do the groceries. Peter’s a single guy, so I wasn’t surprised to see him using a shopping list. But I was surprised to see him buying such large quantities of food. I know I’m a big eater, but 10 kilos of potatoes, 12 egg plants and 24 zucchinis, were a lot more than I thought we’d need.

“What are we having for dinner?” I asked.

“Mousaka,” he said.

“But isn’t that a bit much for the 2 of us?” I asked.

“The 2 of us?” he exclaimed. “This isn’t just for you and me. It’s for 35 of us! We’re having a LETS Christmas Dinner tonight, and you’re the guest speaker”.

But that wasn’t all. Once we got to the Wells Centre (at 2.00pm), where the event was taking place, I realized that he was going to do the cooking himself. In fact, he also asked me to do some cooking as well. But when it comes to talking, I can be very persuasive with my arguments, and I managed to convince Peter that if he wanted to ensure that all the food was edible, he’d be wise to keep me away from the cooking. However, I was happy to get involved with the food preparation, and handled all of the peeling, slicing and dicing with artistic finesse.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to give my full presentation to the LETS members that evening, but I did manage to give them an entertaining 40 minute segment from my standard 90-120 minute LETS presentation. So it was still a good night for everyone there.

The following day I visited the group’s SUSTI shop, a Global Centre Project, which sells products made in 3rd World countries. They have a tiny coffee shop at the back of the store, where people can come and sit and chat at the solitary 6-seater table there. On this day I met Mawuko, from Ghana. He had an Oware game in front of him and was looking for someone to join him. So I obliged.

Mawuko, from Ghana, sits in front of the 12-hollow Oware board.

The Oware game is made of wood and has 12 hollowed cups (in 2 rows of 6) carved into it. It’s a game for 2 players, each facing a row of 6 cups. Four beads are placed into each cup at the start of each game. Mawuko had lost one of these beads and had quickly substituted it with a scrunched up piece of paper. To start, one player picks up all the beads from whichever of the 12 cups he chooses, and drops them off one at a time in each of the cups he passes, going in an anti-clockwise direction, so that the cup he started from is now empty. Then the next player does the same thing, starting from whichever cup he chooses. The object of the game is to collect any sets of 4 beads which are created as you drop off the beads, but only from the 6 cups on your side. When you create a set of 4 beads on the opposite side, then these are collected by your opponent, unless it’s a set of 4 created with the last bead you drop on the opposite side. Then these 4 beads also go to you. And so the game continues until there aren’t enough beads to make any more sets of 4, and then the player with the most beads wins.

I like games of strategy and I found this game to be thoughtfully challenging. But even though I improved with each game, I still couldn’t manage to win any of them. So on that day, Mawuko remained the undefeated Oware champion.

This article is taken from the ebook,
400-Day LETS Odyssey

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