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The International Writers Magazine: Life Story

Linda Regan

‘Don’t Put Your Daughter on the stage, Mrs Worthington!’ Isn’t a phrase that resounded around our house, in the year when I reached five.
My father, at that time, was earning a pittance in a holiday camp, and very happy to work the long hours, and live, with a wife and two young children, in a minute, wooden chalet, that wasn’t quite guaranteed against the elements, in exchange for the title Holiday-Camp Entertainer -a title given to the group of fellows, who, all for the love of show-business, and the campers, worked sixteen hours a day, and did everything from singing in the cabaret to greeting the new campers, dressed up as sardines.

The moment the camper’s under ten talent competition was announced, Dad saw a way to earning a juice bonus.
I had already cut my teeth in show-business, having worked in the Punch and Judy tent twice a day as the official passer-upper of a crocodile puppet and the choking stick. My Dad, being given the job of Punch and Judy employed me, paying me in pennies, as I knew the show backwards and was small enough to squeeze into the tent with him, and my hands tiny enough to fit into the smaller puppets. Naturally, with this experience in the world of entertainment, it was fully expected that I would shine in this ‘campers’ talent competition.

I was taught a poem, line by line, and told all I had to do was to recite it, and look cute.
The poem was by John Masefield, and was called Roadways. It was the tale of an ancient seaman and his longing to see the sea once more before he died. I could still recite it to this day, it made such an impression on me. (So, please feel very relieved this is a writing and not a performing course.)

The big day came. My mother had dressed me in pink frills from shoulder to knee, and had twisted my hair, with the help of my father’s pipe cleaners, into tight ringletted curls, decorating the top with a pink bow, twice as wide as I was high. The idea being I would be introduced to the judges, made up of that week’s campers, as ‘The evenings Frill!’
I remember being unperturbed as I stood in the wings waiting my turn. I was eating sweets and drinking Coca-Cola.
Then the moment came- I walked on, the youngest and smallest in the competition. I still clearly remember the ‘aahing’ and the ‘cooing’ from the audience.

I looked out, but I couldn’t see my Mum. And there was a very large light blinding me.
My mother was a strict Irish catholic, and had told me that if you saw a White Light it meant that Hell was very near.
She wasn’t that far wrong.

The compere of the evening, I now know was one of the campers, but at the time a stranger, walked up to me and asked me my name. No one had told me about a strange man asking my name. I’d only been told to recite my poem and I’d get a toffee apple.

Panic gripped me. The white light signified Hell, so I thought this man was devil. I started to cry, and then howl. Then he knelt beside me. I thought he was praying, so now I knew Hell was beckoning. Then he thrust what I thought was a toffee apple in front of my mouth, I know now it was a microphone, but then I’d just learned about the garden of Eden, the devil tempting Adam with an apple. I let out a fearsome, rip- roaring scream, straight into the microphone, the scream accelerated back on itself in the mike, vibrating the sound which distorted and intensified into terrifying, shriek.
That was too much for a five year old who’d just consumed a lot of CocaCola. Water shot from my lower region and an enormous puddle surrounded the ground around me. I ran from the stage humiliated and terrified.

Today, as a performer, I still know the pain of stage-fright, but nothing in my life has ever felt as scary as the night I missed my first performance.

© Linda Regan October 2007

Linda is the author of
Behind You! by Linda Regan
Daniel Alves review

Life long feuds, unsolved hatreds, and more than enough lies to twist the plot into a maze. This detective novel boasts all the themes that darken in the eye of betrayal; sex, money, and murder.

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