JOHN GRIFF COLUMN: Lucky traditions do have their place in life

Doesn’t time fly? I can scarcely believe that we’re almost through to the end of the first full week of 2022 ... and yet here we are, writes John Griff.

Wednesday, 5th January 2022, 11:48 am
Updated Wednesday, 5th January 2022, 11:50 am
John Griff pictured at the launch of Aladdin, at The Deco in Northampton

In the blink of an eye, 2021 is trailing in our wake and the world is heading forward once more. Time waits for no-one, wherever and whoever they are.

I’ve never considered myself a ‘traditionalist’. Just because something has always been done in a certain way in the past, I’ve never felt it a prerequisite that it should stay the same in the future.

And yet for all of that, there are traditions which I’ve continued to observe, as well as some new ones which I’ve encountered for the first time over the past month or so.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Strangely, in some ways those traditions have in turn admitted me into new circles or reconfirmed my membership of others, which has been rather reassuring when so much in our world has been in a state of flux.

Completing my first season of professional pantomime in Aladdin at The Deco has introduced me to a number of such traditions.

For many years I’ve known the old theatrical greeting of ‘break a leg’ before a first performance; it’s a phrase I’ve used countless times in the past.

Exclusive to the acting community, it’s something that I heard quite a bit during December from kind people wishing me well in what was quite a personal challenge.

I also learned about bumping fists from a fellow cast member. It has the same basic meaning, but is used before you go on stage for the first time in a performance. When you do it though, you have to have your thumb up too, or it doesn’t count.

There’s another which I instigated myself. Before every performance – and at the final intercom message of ‘beginners to your sides’ from our assistant stage manager – I would emerge from my shared dressing room under the stage itself, head upstairs, check my props and also the clearance of the route I had to take to dash up into the balcony area during one particular part of the show.

Then, and until the moment of actually setting foot on the stage in performance, I would quietly sit somewhere in the wings, clearing my mind of everything except my lines and my marks, so that I could give of my best, not only for the audience but also my fellow cast members, who relied on me to get my bit right so that they could do the same.

It stood me in good stead.

Other traditions have come to the fore in the past few weeks.

Some are personal, some more ceremonial, such as putting up Christmas decorations, delivering festive flowers to the ladies in my immediate family circle, or dressing up for Christmas lunch.

I appreciate that a significant part of our wider community doesn’t necessarily observe Christmas itself, either because it chooses not to, or because Christmas isn’t part of its own faith or culture.

It happens to be so in mine though and always has been.

All these traditions have their place in my world, indeed they are in some ways the tracks upon which my train runs. Better yet, they are the stations that my train stops at during the year, keeping it on course.

Sometimes those traditions evolve; let’s call them station upgrades. But without them I suspect those tracks might wander and meander, endangering the journey.

And we’re all of us working to a lifelong timetable.

So I am a traditionalist after all. I must make a New Year resolution about that…