I Played in the World's Largest Coconut Orchestra
Here is the text of my LiveJournal entry from April 23, 2007. For context, this was just a few days after my ex-husband agreed to the divorce terms. At the time, I was living in London, but I am now living in San Francisco. If the videos at the top don't load for any reason, scroll to the bottom to download two videos I took on the day, which will play in Quicktime.
I Helped Break/Make a World Record Tonight!
I decided that I really needed to get out of the house today, after spending all day Sunday inside. On my way into the V&A by Tube, I had picked up a discarded newspaper and come across this entry:
London for Free
Monty Python's Spamalot Coconut Orchestra
Pitch up to Trafalgar Square from lunchtime today and you'll find a raft of classic comedy films screened in honour of St. George's Day. But the comedy peaks this evening as the cast of the Monty Python musical "Spamalot" lead an endeavour to break the world record for the largest coconut orchestra. Would-be nutters who want to join in should register for coconuts beforehand, the event is followed by a screening of "Monty Python and the Holy Grail" at 7:30pm.
So I decided to go! I texted half a dozen people but no one else could come. Pity, because they missed a really good laugh.
The queues for coconuts were not too long, and I got mine within 10 minutes of arrival. I found a seat on the ground and enjoyed some silent films being projected on a giant screen, during which the crowd spontaneously practiced their clip-clopping anytime a horse or camel appeared. There was a silent comedy sketch featuring people wearing horse-suits that was absolutely hysterical, despite being close to 100 years old. Mayor Ken Livingstone made a brief speech, but was booed, which I thought was mean, since he's the one who approved this event to commemorate 'the worldwide contribution made by British humour'.
The huge inflatable foot of Cupid floated overhead, threatening to crush the crowd. Terry Jones and Terry Gilliam both made appearances, whipping the crowd into a boisterous frenzy of musical nuts of appreciation. There was a professional conductor in tux and tails, a practice session, the reading of the rules by the Official from the Guinness Book of World Records, and then the event itself: 4,300 people singing along to "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life" and clapping along with their coconut halves in time. The only moment I didn't enjoy was when Ken Livingston said that there were 2,000 participants in New York and we needed to 'beat those Americans'. The crowd swelled into an enormous and powerful cheer and I suddenly felt like I could be lynched if I opened my mouth, revealing myself as an American, but the moment passed as quickly as it had arrived, and it was clearly a bit of showmanship by Ken who was trying to recover from the booing.
Although I was a bit sad to not have friends or a partner there to share it with, it's the first time in a long while that I've been alone in a crowd and not felt alone. I smiled at people, but didn't feel compelled to talk to them. I enjoyed overhearing conversations going on around me, and didn't feel left out. I was just enjoying the time for what it was, a crowd of like-minded people coming together to have fun, and participate in a comedic history snapshot, something that I could be part of simply by being there, and it didn't matter that I didn't know anyone else. I was able to be spontaneous and be rewarded, and to accept that reward without guilt or difficulty, and that felt very different to the Jen of just a couple of months ago who felt threatened by every change that came her way.
Afterwards the Guinness Book Guy confirmed that we had indeed broken the record, and everybody cheered. They showed "Monty Python and the Holy Grail" on the big screen, and a group of guys behind me recited absolutely every single word, which reminded me of the Talented and Gifted Program in my High School in Atlanta, where I learned all the words to the film before ever having seen it, thanks to the endless recitations of the other TAG students. When I actually saw the film for the first time, I was heard to remark, "ah, that's much funnier now that it's in context". ;^) I even managed to shout out a few of the key lines myself, tonight. Almost as fun as "Rocky Horror" at BiCon.
Instead of taking the nearest Tube back, I wandered on instinct and found myself at the Millennium Bridge, taking gorgeous photos of Big Ben, the London Eye and the Bridge itself at night. However, I refrained from taking a stroll down the Thames in order to get back in time for decent sleep tonight before work tomorrow.
On the way back I thought about how different I am now. I used to be afraid to travel places by myself in London, now I take the Tube with impunity and wander the streets 'on instinct'. I can adapt to line and station closures because I'm familiar and unafraid, and have confidence in my ability to take care of myself and to get where I need to be. The other day I was able to choose a different bus to take in less than a second because I knew the routes. In the past, I would have taken time to think about it, and in that time the bus would have pulled away. I know this doesn't sound like much, but I'm claiming my victories now, every single one of them, and being unafraid to travel alone is a big deal to me. I sometimes think that I might have married Jason just because I was so afraid of being alone, that someone who was not right for me was better than nobody at all, but the Jen of today would not make that choice again, at least, not willingly. I'm not alone, I'm with me.
I'm also feeling like I did the last year I was in North Carolina: every moment seems precious, every meeting feels like it should be squeezed to get all the juice, every thing appears to be possibly the last time you do or see or say or experience that thing... It's like putting a spotlight on every minute and recording it with your mind. When you know something is coming to an end, that might just be the only time you really, really appreciate it. Strangely, I did not have that experience when my marriage was ending. I guess because it should have been over long before it was, and subconsciously I wanted it to be over, but I just hadn't admitted it to myself yet...
Thank the Maker I will be free soon. In the meantime, I can look at all the familiar places and views around me and try to attach new memories to them, and allow the old ones to flutter away like tissues in the wind. And, I've got a pair of coconuts to clop along to "Holy Grail"!
Added note: A few months later I took myself to "Spamalot" in the West End as a farewell to London and realised that the conductor at the World Record event was the conductor for the show. I really enjoyed the live orchestra and the entire stage production, and highly recommend it to any Python fans, old or new. And I didn't have to pay 7.50GBP for my coconuts!