I was thinking about what I could write for my 100th review. When I was using the site regularly a few years ago, I would often keep an eye out for the those survey-type-100quick-fire-questions-reviews that people would often put together. I've done a couple, they're good.
I started looking through my COT, to make way for new members to add in, then I came across my friend who signed up to Ciao back in 2006. My friend Vicky signed up as Eee_by_gum. I was once telling her about what I was doing since we left uni and mentioned about the review sites I write on in my spare time...links were exchanged (probably on myspace) and we went from there. She never was an active member, but it was cool that I knew someone in real life on Ciao, and that she was in my COT nonetheless.
I first met Vicky in 2001, at university. I did a combined degree of Theatre with Art - so belonged to two faculties. The first time I saw her, I was pretty scared of her. If my memory serves me correctly it was the end of our first week of lectures and seminars. We were in an art history lecture, and she strolled in late (to the gasp of the mature students in the front row). She was petite, tanned and wore a bandana - clearly, she must be american, I thought. I had just got back from a summer away in the states, where we all wore bandanas, so whilst my assumption was foolish, it wasn't unreasonable). A week later, I realised she was she was also on my drama course. We got put in the same group (I think we were studying Strindberg, or something equally as dull), and she had an American accent!! It's interesting to note at this point, that she was actually from Shropshire, and putting on a fake accent in mockery of the few who thought she was American (turns out, I wasn't the only one who thought she was). We laughed a lot.
During the next few weeks, we were put into different groups for studio art classes. When we got together chatting, we realised that we were the only 2 in our year, in the whole university to be doing a combined degree in Theatre with Art. From that moment, we had a little connection. We also discovered that both of us had taken 2 years out, and we celebrated our birthdays a month apart. More or less everyone on the courses (apart from the oldies) were younger than us (but only by a year or two). She was the type of girl who would always make you laugh. She was open, friendly and funny. She would sometimes share a gripe with me about someone, but when she would talk to you about it, you could forgive her as it was generally about the sort of insecurities we all share. She had a vulnerability that made her charming, and a tongue as sharp a knife. She loved to use words such as "m*nge" and "tw*t", and sometimes worse. If she said something that you didn't like or agree with, she would always follow it up with a big smile with doe like eyes, then she had you giggling! She always called everyone "Sweetie", not in a patronising Ab-fab way, but in a genuinely kind and informal way that made you feel relaxed around her.
We hated Art History, yes it was interesting, but we wanted more fun. The lectures were generally dull and we were always outsmarted by the older folks (somehow the ratio of older students in their 60s, to us fresh faced youngsters was 50/50). Needless to say, this meant that we always stayed in the back rows where we could get away with not listening (probably why we were always outsmarted). We would pass notes to each other trying to make each other laugh out loud at inappropriate moments...it was incredibly hard not to laugh out loud. As a generalism, in our Art History class, it was always prudent to describe whatever art we were looking at (mainly sculptures) as phallic. That was you would get brownie points for your demonstration of understanding the form. It didn't help that our lecturer (who is an incredibly lovely man) had the unfortunate and ironic surname of "Shakeshaft". I have very clear memories of Vicky squeezing her nose and covering her mouth, eyes screwed up in agony, trying not to laugh. I would frequently let out a trumpet-like splurge of noise, laughing at HER trying not to laugh. We shared private jokes, mainly made up art stories about "Shakeshaft and the Phallic Factory" (it still puts a little smile on my face thinking about it now).
We had a mutual friend, Ros, who did the Theatre side of the course with us. Ros and Vicky were best friends, and it's probably through Vicky that we all made friends. We never really went on nights out altogether, but we would frequently bump into each other at the student union and spend the night chatting (or hearing more about Vicky's obsession with the new barman). The 3 of us were in the Student Theatre Group also, so we would often be caught chatting about our fame and fortune when we left uni. For some reason, we would always end up singing Green Day songs. Vicky wanted to be a star. She had the right qualities too. She had the biggest smile and the most beautiful face. She was the master of voices, putting on different accents and enjoying being playful with words and expressions. We went to the theatre a few times, and cooed over how that would be us working on a big production one day.
When we all left uni, we kept in touch, but not really all that regularly, as life tends to get in the way when you move apart. We would text and chat on msn or myspace - and once the three of us had a very random, three way conversation through our computers - which at the time was incredibly advance. All I remember from it was laughing.
In February 2007, I had just moved into my new flat and got a phone call from Ros. It was a bit odd, I thought. She told me how Vicky had been rushed to hospital the day before. She had an asthma attack and couldn't breathe. The news was devastingly terrible to hear. Then came the part that still resonates a sort of shock through me. She didn't make it.
I don't know if any of you have experienced a friend telling you such news, about a mutual friend - but it's the strangest feeling, that I don't want to experience again. It's vomit inducing. I couldn't get my head around it all. I felt sorrow and sadness, as well as regret. I felt that I didn't keep in touch well enough. Why didn't I take a few trips up to visit her or Ros? I channelled my strange and unwelcome grief into planning. The funeral was approaching, and I knew Ros had a mission on her hands, to let uni people know. Ros and Vicky were the bestest of friends, so whatever I felt, Ros must have felt a million fold. I managed to help her out by letting a few people know what had happened and organising a tribute from everyone at uni. I was asked to do a reading at the service. It was something I felt passionately about doing, in some way to show how much love and affection I and everyone at uni had for her. The day itself was hard. I was trying to distance myself from the situation, to be able to get through and do her proud. Seeing her graveside tributes was chocking and numbing.
The uni lot went to the pub after, and shared stories. It always seems to be the biggest characters, that have the biggest tragedies. She left behind a boyfriend, mother, father, 2 sisters and what is a huge extended family of love.
About 6 months later, I got my dream job - working on a West End Show. A few times I caught myself thinking, I wish Vicky was around to tell her about it - and I would sometimes daydream about how funny it would be if I could get her along to auditions and scoop a part for her. Once the show opened, Ros came along to see it, and weirdly enough, Ros said a very similar thing to me - about how Vicky would have loved to have seen it and would have been proud of what I was doing. I agreed.
I think about her often. I have a black and white photo of her in a frame, next a framed photo of my Nan who died around the same time. The photo looks like one of those you would find in an actor's biography - the candid studio "I'm on a break, but still looking fabulous" pose. She could have been a star.
So my 100th review is for the 100s of stars that are with Vicky.
Thanks for reading :)
© MarcoG 2012