WHAT IS THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE RINGLETS?


In January 2015, following a routine check by my vigilant GP, I was diagnosed with invasive breast cancer.

As a Brit living in Sydney, Australia since 2008, I realised over the following days just how many of my friends and family were scattered across the globe and different timezones.

The Fellowship of the Ringlets was originally just a tremendous pun and the title of a closed Facebook group I created to keep those distant friends and family in the loop and worry-free.

But over 12 months, my little group somehow grew from 80 to 800+ and became a veritable band of brothers, a support team like no other and a true Fellowship in every sense of the word.

Their love, laughter and rallying cries have been the greatest tonic a little ringlet'd cancer-face like me could have wished for.

The following letters, musings, incoherent ramblings and occasional bouts of bad language are for them all.

Welcome to the Fellowship of the Ringlets.

VC x

Monday, 27 March 2017

*FROM HACKNEY TO THE WEST END...

Dear Fellowship

So this just happened. My little coffin play 'Come Die With Me' just got picked for a new writing night in Hackney in London Town on 28th March! 
I need to, somewhat hilariously, now provide them with a headshot (will me drinking an espresso martini do, I wonder?) and some blurb about what I've written before - not sure a sixth form panto, a chapter of a digital marketing book and a cancer blog are what they'll be expecting...
Blimey. 

UPDATE: 13th March
'Come Die With Me' just selected as one of four to be staged at Spotlight UK in the West End on April 10th. And apparently, my actors and I will be getting paid for this one! Woop! 
Hang on, does this mean I get to say that I've had a play on in the West End? Yay!

https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/womens-night-tickets-32973824597?aff=efbneb


UPDATE #2: 27th March

'Come Die With Me' has been chosen to feature in Little Pieces of Gold's prestigious short play night at Southwark Playhouse on 23rd April. In their 200-seater venue (gulp). 

http://southwarkplayhouse.co.uk/events/faith/

https://www.littlepiecesofgold.co.uk/belief


VC x


Monday, 20 February 2017

*'COME DIE WITH ME' (I WROTE A PLAY!)

Dear Fellowship,

So the last time I wrote a play was in 1991. And it was technically a pantomime. A sixth-form pantomime based very loosely on Cinderella. I wrote it, less because I wanted to write a play and more because everyone else was busy doing other far more boring things, like studying for their A-levels.
Writing a panto with roles for 60 girls (it was an all-girls school before you assume I'd relegated all the lads to 'Boy Sweeping Up in Background #1') was no mean feat but we somehow managed it with some frankly sensational creative thinking on my part. 
Narrative structure was cast aside for dance routines that the Backstreet Boys would be proud of and the writing process consisted mostly of people coming up to me at various points during lunch break , saying 'can you build in a scene where me and my mates can come on and dance to De La Soul / Happy Mondays / Kylie Minogue / Dee-lite etc etc?' and I'd go "Gaaaah! You are all killing my writer's soul. I bet Shakespeare never had to deal with this many requests!" and then I'd obligingly write the scene anyway. It remains one of the very worst and very best things I've ever written and I still can't watch the video of it without crying with laughter...
So that was then. And this is now. And a mere 26 years later, with a few more life experiences under my belt and 4 months after starting my M.A in Playwriting, I saw my first proper short play performed on stage last week. In public. With proper actors and an audience and applause and EVERYTHING. And it was kinda fun. Buttock-clenchingly terrifying and utterly exhausting but total fun. It's called 'Come Die With Me'. I do love a pun, me.
Despite the cheery title, it's not about cancer. I've been trying to half-heartedly write the cancer play but it isn't happening and to be honest, I've seen about three cancer plays in the last few months and one was a musical so as much as it's tempting to write a cancer panto, I figure the market for cancer plays is fairly saturated right now. My tutor is very fond of saying 'Why this play? why now?' and much as I'm always tempted to go 'huh? Because, like, deadlines?', she has a point. 
So instead, I wrote a short play about my dad, hired a coffin from The National Theatre, accidentally cast an Aussie, a Swede (the country, not the vegetable) and a Londoner who couldn't have looked less like each other to play a mother, brother and sister, closed my eyes and hoped no one would walk out. 





And it went ok, I think. 
Thanks to the hapless pals and family who gave up their Tuesday and Wednesday night to trek over to North London and laugh / cry in all the right places. And thanks to my tight team of trusted readers who patiently read every tearstained draft (there were 12) I sent them over Christmas when they were trying to open their presents, entertain their kids and drink vats of festive sherry. 





And sorry to those that I STILL haven't caught up with, despite being back for six months now. I am essentially a wild-haired recluse sitting in my pants, desperate for inspiration to strike until September 2017 so don't take it personally... :)
Love, 
VC x

Wednesday, 4 January 2017

*MAMMOGRAM-A-RAMA #2

Dear Fellowship,

"No change". Words you may not want to hear from a grumpy cab driver at 3am but definitely words to be grateful for following my second annual mammogram this arvo. Phew. :):)
New country, new specialists, whole new supply of ears to bend and minds to numb with dull cancer chat but pleased to confirm that the familiar buzz of the old boob-crushing machine remains the same, as does the British awkwardness of being manhandled boob-first into a fancy sandwich press by a total stranger. Good times. 
So all is well and I press on into another year 'cancer-freeeeee' (fingers crossed, touchwood etc etc) - happily, one year further away from the whole cancer shmozzle and sadly, less able by the day to legitimately refuse to do press-ups or rowing at the gym because "I've had cancer and a bad arm". Damn. 
The good news is that I've invested in a desk, got a desk lamp from my sister for Christmas, have gone crazy for coloured Post-Its and am constantly wearing a scarf that weighs more than I do so I'm pretty much killing it on the whole student front. To be honest, if I had a shiny Canon Starwriter on my desk instead of a Mac, I'd swear it was 1995 all over again.

As it is, I've just finished my first 3,000 word assignment since 1995 (it's on black comedy - seemed appropriate) and now only have a short play to polish, a TV pitch to write and three scenes to re-hash in the next ten days. Good Lord. Cue hysterical teenage tears followed by long, calming, procrastination-friendly dog walks...




So on that note, I must be off to stare blank-faced once more at my weary laptop whilst absent-mindedly chomping my way through an entire festive tin of Quality Street. It's always Christmas in VC's house when Tesco has those bad boys on special offer...
Wishing you all a very happy 2017! Am also braced and ready for the beach and sun shots to come at me so do your worst, my smug-faced, suntanned Aussie pals... :):)

Love,
VC x

Thursday, 17 November 2016

* EDUCATING PETER

Dear Fellowship,
It has been more than two months since my last post and to be perfectly honest, I have wondered many times whether that might be it for the old #fotr. A slow but inevitable drawing of the Fellowship curtains triggered by the dawning realisation that I really can't and more importantly don't want to keep playing this cancer card forever (except to get out of stuff I don't like, such as burpees and speeding tickets) and that maybe it's the right time to withdraw gracefully into the shadows, like an ageing, silent film star. More emphasis on the ageing than silent, I fear..
But here's the thing. Last year's musings were, for sure, largely driven by the need to drag as many people as I could muster on the old cancery 'journeeeeeey' with me so that I wouldn't feel quite so like a bald Bridget Jones singing ‘All By Myself’ on the sun-drenched streets of Surry Hills. But I also came to realise that the sheer act of writing it all down was a decent way to process the frankly ridiculous situations that I found myself in last year.
And so now I find myself facing something of a conundrum. Because as of 6 weeks ago, I officially became a 43 year old cancer survivor at drama school in London doing a full-time Masters in Stage and Screenwriting. I own a puppy and live by the river in a cottage that would not look out of place in Midsomer Murders. I can light a fire. On my own. Today I even ordered firewood. I am virtually Bear bleeding Grylls. I commute into London with my 16-25 Student Railcard and I have an app called Unidays that I shamelessly use to drag student discounts out of every retailer in town. I scare my fellow students by reminding them that I was graduating as they were being born and that when I was last at uni, There. Was. No. Internet. 



So in many ways, it feels a bit like what I’m currently doing is even more ridiculous than that time a burping metaphysical hairdresser in Bondi chopped all my ringlets off and sold me a swishy wig for two grand. And I'm itching to write about it because a lot of this shit is comedy GOLD. 
But it’s also absolutely terrifying. And when it’s terrifying and unknown and a bit mad, it’s very easy to get lost in a world of ‘what the devil am I doing here? Where are my flip-flops and where's my green juice? Where are my beach and my boat-based weekend jaunts?Where are my Aussie maaaaaates? Where’s my job?!’ (That last one is blatantly untrue - I was born for this student life). 
Anyway, last year, I thankfully worked out quite quickly that sitting quietly inside my little curly head, over-thinking stuff like a pro wasn’t the ideal way to approach life in a rational, non-hysterical, non-screechy way and so I’m going to try to follow my own example and thus control the over-thinking by occasionally over-sharing on this very page. Ugh. Horror. 
Plus if I’m honest, I’ve come to the damning realisation over the last 5 months (I know!!) that I’m as useless at Skype’ing my Aussie loves as I used to be at Skype’ing my UK ones. The time difference is still baffling to me. So hopefully this way, when we do eventually speak, we can skip the ‘how’s student life?’ formalities and go straight to the good stuff…
But otherwise, apart from it being really quite cold indeed, all is well back in the land of Brexiteers and warm beers. I have my family quite literally on my doorstep, I've assembled a motley crew of specialists / slaves to tend to my every medical whim, I’ve bought not one but two Flump-like bobble hats for this approaching winter and am currently writing a play about a man who decides to better himself by going to university at the age of 43. It’s called Educating Peter. I think it’s going to be a big hit….:)
No such thing as a new idea, right?
Love, 

VC x
#rotr (return of the ringlets, obvs)





Wednesday, 24 August 2016

*WHERE DID A YEAR GO?!


Dear Fellowship, 

Because there ain't no selfie like a 'Happy end of treatment-versary to me' selfie! 


Today is a big day and not just because I intend to walk up the 4 trillion steps in the sweltering heat to our Amalfi villa without crying, swearing at my sister, hiding in a bush or throwing up on myself. 
Today marks a full year since I waltzed out of Sunburn Sue's office with a wig in my hand and a spring in my step, hopefully never to return. 
It marks one year since I cried like a loon and let my scrambled eggs go cold because of an 11 minute video of the best and most heartwarming friendship-based content on t'web. 
And it therefore also marks my being one-fifth of the way towards the old official 5 yr remission marker that we cancer survivors like to keep a watchful eye on from time to time. 
You may have gathered by now that I quite like a milestone, and this date, along with the original D-day on Jan 2nd, is the date that I will always put a nice tick next to on the calendar before quietly going about my much more important business of (this year) taking nauseating pictures of Italian sunrises, seascapes and Aperol spritzers.




So one year has passed - the wig's gone, the eyelashes, curls and arm have come back and I've now got more freckles than Bieber's got birds but other than that (and a low-key overseas move, quitting of job, renting of idyllic cottage in riverside hamlet and imminent student life), everything pretty much has stayed the same. 
So Happy Anniversary and thanks for gritting your teeth and counting to ten every time I triumphantly brandish the "but you must do this for me - I've had cancer" card. One day, I will stop. But not quite yet...
And most importantly, Happy 1st Birthday to my favourite Aussie/ Zimbabwean, Thomasina Dobson. I couldn't think of a better, brighter, happier little soul to share this date with!


Ciao for now (so Italian, me)
VC x

Friday, 24 June 2016

*END OF AN AUSSIE ERA

Dear Fellowship,

And so, after 2,942 days, 491 leaving lunches, 2 jobs, one extra passport, more weekends away than I can remember, a tussle with the big C and the discovery that 'short hair, don't care' is totally a THING, here endeth my 8 year-long Aussie adventure. For now. Because nothing is forever, right? 

Moving to Oz in 2008 with a backpack, a hangover and the mantra 'it's ok, if it doesn't work out or if it's too hot or full of spiders that will KILL me, I can always go back and live with Mum' was quite frankly the best and most ridiculous act of spontaneity I have ever performed. Until now, probably. 

More Connerty tears have been spilt in the last few months than during the whole of last year and whilst I like to blame the hormone drugs nowadays for any overt display of sentimentality, I must concede that leaving my beautiful second home and the very greatest of new and old friends feels like a squadron of tiny Navy Seals with heavy backpacks are abseiling down my heartstrings...

There's no question an adventure awaits but what a goddamn adventure it's been. 

Thank you to all my awesome pals who have tolerated my tears and tantrums over the last few weeks and quietly helped me lug crap out of the flat without complaint while I shuffled about, sulking like Kevin the Teenager. You are all phenomenal. 

And thank you to my crew in the U.K and the U.S who, over the last 6 months, have been patiently responding to my frequent 'OMG. Have I gone maaaaaaad? Waaaaah.' messages with an eye roll and "You were always a bit odd. Book the flight, loser". 

So for now but not forever, I'm off on a little trip. To London for a bit of drama school action via Singapore, Cambodia, India and Spain. It should be fun. There will be stories. And drama. Lots of drama. 

All that remains is to post a slightly smuggo selfie and bid my Aussie life adieu - get your spare rooms made up though, one day I'll be back and I have no intention of paying for my bed and board....
Big Aussie love,
VC x

Thursday, 5 May 2016

*MAMAMIA FOLLOW-UP PIECE


Dear Fellowship,
So it's a whole year since I wrote that first article for Mamamia so I thought I'd write another one for them - my current output of one article per year feels very achievable.
And so here it is, up and on t'web accompanied by the most eclectic bunch of photos (chosen, I might add, entirely by them) ever!
It's a blatant and unapologetic re-hashing of my previous anniversary post from Jan but as you know, it's not entirely out of character for me to bang on about the same thing over and over again...
Love, 
VC x