Monday, 30 January 2012

A sheep and a faint and a statue

Sixteen hours.  That's how long it takes to drive to Edinburgh and back.  That's how long I spent in the car this weekend (fortunately in the back seat and able to nap).  And that's why my leg muscles are absolutely killing me now that it's Monday, the morning after the morning after the night before. 

The things you have to do when you're a human statue...

I do some work for a company called Spinoff, who do circus skills performances and workshops round the UK, everything from kids parties and fun days to festival work and corporate events.  Everyone on the books has their particular skills; I mostly get kids workshops, play sessions and face painting gigs, which I really enjoy, but this time round we had been asked to provide four human statues for the reception of the Glenmoragie whisky company's Christmas party/whisky tasting in the Scottish National Museum, Edinburgh.  Quite the venue!  Due to the amount of kit we needed to take with us the trip had to be made by car so on Saturday morning we all bundled in and headed off up the A1.  It's a bit of a trek but once you get past Newcastle you're following the coast most of the way, making for some pretty excellent views, and it seems that as soon as you get into Scotland the landscape knows it because everything suddenly became craggier as we crossed the border -or as my friend would have it "lumpy".

Welcome to Scotland!

We arrived in at the museum in good time but immediately hit a problem.  Our contact was uncontactable, either by us or the museum staff, so what had begun as a very well-timed and orderly operation suddenly stepped up about five gears.  I remember running back and forth past the glass case containing Dolly the Sheep, which was very surreal, carrying armfuls of kit.  By the time we found out where we needed to be there was only one hour left to set everything up and bodypaint four people, two of them from head to toe.  We got it done and done well, like always, but there was no time to grab a breather before people started arriving. 

I was a table statue- essentially there is a hole in the centre of a stone-effect table which the performer stands in, the join between the two is disguised, and the statue can interact with guests, serve drinks and play tricks on them.  My favourite was waiting for one person in a group to look at you, and then moving.  They'd get all their friends to look and you stand very still.  Then the others lose interest and when it's just that one person watching again, you change poses again.  He tells his friend, they watch, you stay still, repeat ad comedis and watch as it slowly drives him nuts :)  We had another boy as a table statue too, both of us painted from the waist up, and two free standing statues who could move about the room and were painted top to toe.  There's pros and cons to both ; the free-standers have their whole bodies to think of when they pose but they can move about the room over time.  The table statues only need to be painted on the top half and can wiggle their feet, but they are more restricted in other ways - if your spot in the room is too hot or cold, or you need a break there's no way you can move.  We were supposed to be there for an hour, although in the end we overran by a good twenty minutes, and although it might sound hard to stay still and silent for that long, once you're in the zone it's not too bad. 

Dolly the sheep!  Excitement!
However about 40mins in I suddenly ran into some trouble as I realised I was not feeling good.  Within the space of seconds I became dizzy, lost my hearing (there was music, talking and bagpipes going on around me but it was as if someone had just turned a dial down and faded it all out), and then lost my vision.  I was interested by it more than anything else as it wasn't painful, they just went away.  Then I realised what must be happening - I was about to faint.  Covered in body paint, in the middle of a table covered with whisky glasses, at a very prestigious party in a very prestigious building.  I wanted to faint too, sleeping seemed like a very good idea just than, and a lot less effort.  For a moment I seriously considered ducking under my table, curling up and hiding until I felt better but the idea of fainting lying down and having people look down the hole at me seemed just as unnaceptable as fainting standing up so I felt I had to stick it out.  I put my arms down into the easiest pose I could think of, locked my knees, closed my eyes - I couldn't see anyway- braced my hip against the table hole and focussed desparately on breathing deeply and thinking "Don't, don't faint.  Don't faint" over and over. 

I'd never fainted before... and I still haven't, but it was a really close thing.  You give up your sense of time when you are a statue, so I have no idea how long I was like that for, maybe a minute, maybe ten, but just as quickly I felt fine again, apart from coming out in a sweat and being a bit wobblier than previously.  One person noticed and asked me if I was alright (I nodded once in a very statuey fashion), but otherwise I think I got away with it.  I assumed the lack of dinner and water, the hot light behind me and the warm crowded area I was in all had something to do with it, but it wasn't until two days later that a friend mentioned postural hypotension to me.  You know how you get headrushes when you stand up fast and the blood all falls away from your brain?  That blood carries oxygen to your nonce and it's the lack of it that makes you faint.  Well it turns out you can get the same thing from standing in place for too long!  Without movement to help force the blood round your body and up to your head, it can pool in your lower half and if it reaches critical mass you can get suddenly dizzy.  I guess that's what must have happened.

By the time we had trooped back to the hotel (still in paint, seriously confusing the poor receptionist), showered and found a pizza restaurant I was all back to normal and it was just a funny story.  We drove home the next morning, taking a different route along the A68 through Northumberland National Park, which was frosty everywhere and, on some of the higher hilltops, still snowy.  I slept a bit but it was really quite beautiful, bare and empty.  Once you reach the start of the A1 the land becomes abruptly tamer.  I would have liked to take some photos there too, but Andy's misty car window made it impossible.  Look...

See.  I tried.

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