After a summer break where I tried to get as far from the world of opera as possible, I’m back on the road, and back on the blog, once more whinging about all the stuff that irritates me about a singer’s life.
I have long considered the two most frustrating periods in my singing life to be the last few days of a contract, when I’m champing at the bit to be finished with the last performance and on my way home, and those first few days, when my irritation at being reluctantly forced back out on the road is compounded with settling into unfamiliar surroundings, and trying to convince myself that I can be comfortable and happy in my new, temporary home.
Between these two bookends of grumpiness, I fall fairly quickly into an easy rhythm based around rehearsal, role preparation and too many late nights in that cheap bar that seems to lurk around the corner from every opera house.
As I’ve said before, opera can be a repetitive, boring slog, and you owe it to your own sanity to find ways to keep yourself amused.
With that in mind, today’s Ice Bucket Challenge presented a fun diversion on yet another wet and miserable free day here in Brussels. (August, my arse!)
For those of you who don’t engage with the often faddish world of social media, this latest internet sensation has proven an outrageous success as a fundraising stunt for Motor Neuron Disease (ALS) charities around the world.
The challenge is simple – cough up some money, or empty a bucket of iced water over your head, then nominate three friends to do the same.
This simple choice morphed quickly into “donate AND take a soaking” as soon as the public realised the vast amusement factor in watching your friends and colleagues drench themselves at the same time raising money and awareness for a worthy cause. There is an indecent amount of schadenfreude to be had whittling your list of potential targets down to just three people, knowing that it’s all for a good cause in the end.
I must confess, that whilst I was aware of Motor Neuron Disease as a serious medical condition, I would have been hard-pressed to define it had someone asked me. Here’s a description from the ALS Association website (www.alsa.org):-
“Motor Neuron Disease (or Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, as it’s known outside the UK) is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord. Motor neurons reach from the brain to the spinal cord and from the spinal cord to the muscles throughout the body. The progressive degeneration of the motor neurons eventually leads to their death. When the motor neurons die, the ability of the brain to initiate and control muscle movement is lost. With voluntary muscle action progressively affected, patients in the later stages of the disease may become totally paralysed.”
Last night I went online and made my donation to the Motor Neuron Disease Association (www.mndassociation.org), and at midday today I found myself standing on a balcony at the opera house, looking out over the centre of Brussels with a bucket of iced water cradled in my arms.
It really cheered me on this damp, dank day to think that my self-humiliation was benefitting (in a very minor way) another inhabitant of our little planet.
To me the beauty of the Ice Bucket Challenge lies in its ease. It makes doing something for charity simple, even for the laziest of souls. There’s no need to climb a mountain, or run a marathon, or engage in a 24-hour karaoke-thon to raise money for charity, when you can help just by making yourself look daft.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mean to take anything away from all those wonderful people who push themselves to their personal limits and beyond to raise money. We should all support such endeavour with all the sponsorship and encouragement we can muster, and strive ourselves to achieve such feats. There is an admirable courage and nobility in testing your limits for the benefit of others.
Personally, whist I have supported many charities down the years in some form or other, I have never yet set out upon a big sponsored adventure. I’ve long dreamed of making a sponsored motorcycle ride down the entire length of the Pan-American Highway, from Alaska to Cape Horn, but I’ve not done it yet. I’m sure many people out there have their own goals and dreams for a major charitable endeavour, yet, like myself, are still a long way from achieving them.
In the meantime, while you’re still in the planning stage of your great adventure, or even just for those days when you’re feeling a little bit lazy and little bit bored, take it from me, tipping a bucket of water over yourself and putting your hand in your pocket to help another human being is a brilliant way to pass the time.
Here’s the proof.