I went to ballet classes when I was growing up. Did five years of them. Every Thursday afternoon from 4-5pm.
Mrs Warwick was the teacher. She was an older woman who ran the classes from a studio she’d purpose-built in her backyard. She had carrot-read hair piled on top of her head like she was trying to channel Lucille Ball and she wore jet-black leggings and a jet-black leotard.
Mrs Warwick didn’t like me. No, that’s not true. Mrs Warwick hated me. She liked my mother though. Because mum had all five of us enrolled and mum also went there for jazz ballet lessons on Monday nights.
Mrs Warwick would run parent/teacher nights where my mother would have to go and be given an oral report on my progress or lack of it. She told my mother I was lazy and too lazy to try. I thought that for a student with a lack of rhythm and an inflexible body I was trying very hard.
Mrs Warwick was very strict. You weren’t allowed to talk in the class. There were others in the class who like me, were bored stiff and would watch the clock wondering why the minutes were ticking by so slowly. One day a girl younger than me who couldn’t tell the time whispered, ‘How much longer until it’s finished?’ I looked at the clock and whispered back, ‘Only 10 more minutes’. Well Mrs Warwick heard that. She turned off the recorder player, stopped the class, put her hands on her hips and screamed while glaring at me, ‘What are doing looking at the clock? Are you that bored? Don’t you like it here? What don’t you like about ballet, Charlie? Why don’t you tell the class, now that you’ve interrupted us all, why you hate ballet?’ And everyone in the class was looking at me and I said, ‘I just wanted to know the time.’ And she narrowed her eyes and yelled, ‘If you liked ballet or even tried, you wouldn’t be interested in knowing the time. I’ll tell you when it’s five o’clock.’ And then she turned the record player back on.
One week, by a stroke of good fortune, my parents were overseas and had left us with an unsuspecting nanny. When ‘dreaded Thursday’ rocked around and it was time for ballet, Emma and I hid from the nanny. We hid in the lounge room behind the couch and she was yelling out, ‘Come out wherever you are, it’s time for ballet’, but we stayed where we were because we didn’t want to go to ballet.
The next week mum was back from overseas so she dropped us off and as the class was starting Mrs Warwick made Emma and I stand out the front and then she said to the class, ‘Who wants to know why Charlie and Emma weren’t here last week? They weren’t here because they didn’t want to come to ballet. They stayed at home being naughty, hiding from their nanny behind the COUCH.’ And she screamed the word ‘couch’ with her hands on her hips. ‘That’s why they weren’t here.’ And when she’d finished letting everyone know our transgressions we were allowed us to join the class.
I was stuck in the same Thursday afternoon class for five years with no progression. Everyone else apparently was full of promise and they would come into the class and within a short period of time would be moved on up to the Monday class. Mrs Warwick always made a point of announcing very loudly at the end of each class who she had selected to progress to the Monday class. My name was never called.
I hated the classes but I loved the pantomimes. Mrs Warwick considered herself a director and would put on pantomimes at the end of every year. They ran for a three-week season and every class was involved. I performed in quite a few including ‘Mother Goose’ and ‘The Wind in the Willows’. I danced as a poodle, a gale bird and a fairy. My mother stayed up at night sewing my costumes and I still have them today.
I had to cross the Tasman to get out of those ballet classes.
And I haven’t danced since.
Not even socially.
Have you ever persevered at something despite a lack of talent?
Mrs Warwick was horrible but Vanilla Slice was wonderful. You could buy vanilla slice from every cake shop and it was my comfort food of choice.
Makes: 16 squares
Degree of Difficulty: 2/5
Cost: A very inexpensive delightful treat that brings great comfort
- 2 sheets puff pastry
- 1 cup sugar
- 3/4 cup cornflour
- 1/2 cup custard powder
- 1 ltr (4 cups) milk
- 60g (2oz) butter
- 2 egg-yolks
- 2 tspns vanilla extract
- 2 cups icing sugar
- 2 tspns butter
- pulp from 2 passionfruit
- 2 tspns water, approx
Place each sheet of pastry on an oven tray. Bake in very hot oven (250C) for 5-10 minutes until well browned.
Remove from oven and flatten puffy side with your hand. Trim to fit into a 23cm (9in) square tin.
Line tin with baking paper that hangs over the sides to make it easy to remove the slice when set. Place one piece of pastry into base of tin, flattened side uppermost.
Combine sugar, cornflour and custard powder in heavy-based saucepan, mix well to combine. Blend with a little of the milk until smooth, stir in remaining milk; add butter. Stir mixture constantly over heat until custard boils and thhickens, reduce heat, simmer 3 minutes. Remove from heat, quickly stir in vanilla, then stir in the beaten egg-yolks. Pour hot custard immediately over pastry in tin. Place remaining pastry on top of custard so the flattened side touches the hot custard. Press pastry firmly with hand.
Spread evenly with passionfruit icing. When cool, refrigerate several hours or overnight until filling has set.
Sift icing sugar into small basin, add softened butter and pulp from passionfruit. Add enough water, to make icing of thick spreading consistency. The amount of water needed will depend on size of passionfruit. Beat well.
This recipe has been adapted from The Australian Women’s Weekly Cooking Class Cookbook.