My plan for this week’s blog post was to walk you through the costumes I made for a show called From the Lily Pad that played at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 2011. I was going to matter-of-factly tell you how proud I was of everything I managed to make and source on a small budget and a tight time frame.
I was going to tell you how the three crow costumes are still some of my favourite creations and how I kept one and wore it to a Halloween party in Cambridge years later. This costume was particularly appropriate for this occasion as the head was built on a bicycle helmet, making it perfect for the safety conscious Cambridge cyclist.
I was going to be reasonably professional about the whole thing and take you through the design process, the scouring of charity shops, and the hours of sewing. I was also planning on including a brief tangent about how the director and I stumbled-upon and bought a £3 moose teddy in one of the aforementioned charity shops, which she used as a stress doll throughout the rehearsal process. We named it Michael the Moose after my then-boyfriend, now Husband.
However, in true Edinburgh Fringe Festival tradition, this didn’t exactly go to plan. An almost out of body experience overtook my typing fingertips and produced the story you’re about to read. It’s a little silly and self-indulgent but I had a lovely time writing it and I hope you find some gentle joy in reading it.
Welcome to the long overdue sequel to . . .
From the Lily Pad
Once upon a time there was a frog named Tony, who liked eating flies.
Tony was a handsome chap with an excellent sense of style. He wore a crisp, clean white shirt with big puffy sleeves, a black pinstripe waistcoat with shiny buttons, and green and black patterned shorts. Tony was a frog who knew how to accessorise. To complete his outfit, he wore a custom-made silk cravat that was painstakingly painted to match his wonderful green and black patterned shorts.
But all the fancy clothes in the world couldn’t help Tony get over his biggest insecurity: his big floppy, wobbly frog feet. Tony’s feet weren’t like other frog feet. You see, the fairy in charge of the creatures’ aesthetics in Tony’s world, known as The Costume Fairy, had never made frog’s feet before and it proved to be a tricky task. No matter how hard The Costume Fairy tried she couldn’t stop Tony’s toes from flapping about all over the place when he walked, and it did look rather silly. The Costume Fairy was also very busy and thinly stretched. She had a whole world of creatures to style, with very little money, and even less time. So, Tony’s toes had to stay as they wibbly-wobbly were.
Some of the other creatures in Tony’s world weren’t very kind about his ridiculous feet. As Tony was out for a hop one day, he unexpectedly bumped into two French rats, called Henry and Louis, who had swords and fancy hats. They had crisp, clean white shirts with even puffier sleeves than Tony’s. Their fancy hats had been decorated with fancy feathers, fancy purple trim and big blingy gold buckles. The Costume Fairy had delicately finished their tunics with shiny black trim and lovingly sewn a royal symbol onto their fronts. Finally, The Costume Fairy had given them long pink tails that flapped around with just the right amount of swish and swashbuckle.
Tony was jealous of the rats’ tails.
“That’s what a rat’s tail should look like,” thought Tony. “Why don’t my feet look like real frog’s feet? It’s so unfair.”
Tony decided to head back home for a consolatory cup of tea and some freshly caught flies. Just as he was a hop away from home, he spotted shadows on the surface of the lily pad and fast-moving reflections in the pond water. He craned his neck to look up and spotted three black crows circling overhead.
Tony was very scared. He’d heard rumours that, although these crows were the favourites of The Costume Fairy, they weren’t very friendly creatures.
The Costume Fairy had a wonderful time and put a lot of work into making these crows. She individually cut out all their feathers from fabrics of every shade of black and grey then sewed them together in carefully organised rows to make their majestic wings. She built their heads on bicycle helmets, so they wouldn’t hurt themselves if they fell out of the sky. She covered the helmets in more individually cut feathers and gave each of them their own pair of brightly coloured eyes in red, blue, and yellow. She gave them long pointy beaks made of stiff foam, which were significantly more structurally sound than Tony’s poor toes. The crows were her favourite creations, and they occupied a special place in her heart.
Unfortunately, all this attention had made the crows very spoiled indeed. They liked to show off to the other creatures and taunt them about being less special and loved by The Costume Fairy.
“Caw, look at this hilarious little frog and his big wibbly-wobbly feet!” one of the crows called to the others.
“Ca-Caw,” another called back, “Why do they squiggle and squirm all over the place when he moves? Real frog feet don’t do that!”
“The Ca-Caw-Costume Fairy must not have cared very much about that stupid frog to leave him with weird feet like that!” the third crow cruelly cried.
With their taunts still ringing in Tony’s ears, the crows flapped their beautifully crafted wings and flew off to go poop on the French rats’ house, as they liked to do after they’d had a substantial breakfast and ruined someone’s day.
Tony sighed and hopped back to his lily pad. He pulled out his waterproof Kindle and started reading the latest in a long line of self-help books he’d downloaded to try and help him learn to love his absurd looking feet.
Suddenly, there was a gentle knock on the bottom of his lily pad.
“Hello,” said Tony, “Who’s there?”
“Help!” a muffled voice called out from underneath the water.
“Excuse me?” Tony called back, “Can I help you?” He was a very polite and considerate frog and didn't want anyone to be in distress.
There was a large splash and another frog clumsily hopped up onto Tony’s lily pad.
“Are you a real frog?” asked the newcomer.
Tony looked at his feet and considered his answer. “Close enough,” he replied.
“How on earth do you deal with having these ridiculous things on the ends of your legs all day long?! They’re just a pair of bloomin’ trip hazards!” the new frog, whose name was Derek, exclaimed.
After a brief and slightly awkward conversation, Tony discovered that Derek was in fact a handsome prince, who had been turned into a frog by a wicked goblin. Derek may have been handsome and wearing a gold waistcoat that The Costume Fairy had made him, so he’d blend in with the other frogs (because all frogs wear waistcoats in this world) but, unfortunately, Derek and his family were skint.
Sadly, for Derek’s family, the people who lived in their kingdom decided that they didn’t really need a royal family anymore. Their former subjects didn’t see why they should pay for Derek and his family to live in such fancy houses and wear such fancy clothes, when they didn’t actually seem to be very nice people. So, the people of their kingdom told them they could keep their smallest castle, their best clothes and enough money to feed their many corgis (it wasn’t the dogs’ fault their owners were aresholes after all) but the rest of their estate would be sold off and the money would be given to the poorest people in the kingdom.
Derek’s family tried renting out the spare rooms of their castle on Airbnb and hiring out their fancy clothes for costume parties, but they hadn’t earned enough cash to cover their very large electricity bill. Turns out it takes a lot of energy to heat a five-hundred-year-old castle, even a small one. Derek had been forced to take out a loan from a wicked goblin, who just happened to be a payday lender. However, as Derek didn’t have a job, he also never had a payday. His debt, therefore, never got repaid. As punishment for falling behind on his payments, the goblin turned Derek into a frog, who would only be returned to his human form if he could find, and somehow convince, a princess to kiss him.
“That’s a bit of a pickle,” said Tony.
“It certainly is!” replied Derek, “Do you happen to know if there are any princesses around here?”
As luck would have it, there was a princess around there, and a lost one at that. Just as Derek was enquiring as to where he might find a princess to rescue him from his froggy fate, a real-life princess stumbled, quite literally, into Tony’s pond.
Since The Costume Fairy had never been that interested in princesses, she decided to dress the princess of this world, Princess Alexandria, up in the usual boring princess attire. She made her a pretty pale pink corset embellished with little (fake) diamonds and a spiffy barbie pink dress with a big skirt. She also gave her a tacky looking tiara. The Costume Fairy begrudgingly accepted that royalty needed some bling but didn’t see why she should spend the budget for the whole world on one character just because she was royalty. That would be wasteful and undemocratic.
Princess Alexandria’s outfit may have been as pretty as a princess dress should be, but it was far from practical for parading around a world made predominantly of swamp. The pale pink corset was a tad on the tight side and made Princess Alexandria a little light-headed if she wore it for too long. The tacky tiara didn’t fit Princess Alexandria’s head very well and had an annoying habit of falling down over her face and blocking her vision. Finally, the skirt of the barbie pink dress was so big that Princess Alexandria was constantly falling over the wretched thing. She didn’t want to make a fuss though. Good princesses don’t make a fuss, the stuffy old men in her family had always told her.
This collection of clothing related shortcomings, combined with the swampy condition of this particular world, meant that Princess Alexandria often found herself falling arse-over-tit and landing face down in a swamp, puddle, or pond. An unfortunate state of affairs for Princess Alexandria, but on this particular occasion, her fall was extremely fortunate for Derek.
The trajectory of today's tumble put Derek directly in the path of Princess Alexandria’s rapidly descending lips. She fell face first into the pond, specifically, lips first onto the top of Derek’s slimy green head. This sudden collision was enough to fool the magic spell the goblin had put on Derek into believing that he’d been kissed by a princess. All of a sudden, Derek found himself returned to human form. Rather wet human form, as he was still located in the middle of a pond, but human form, nonetheless.
“What a stroke of luck!” Derek joyfully bellowed, “Thanks, Princess. Good day Tony. I’m off to write a book about this whole adventure and flog it to the poor people for £20 a pop. I’ll have my fortune back in no time!”
“Tosser.” muttered Tony under his breath.
“Bloody dress.” the Princess muttered simultaneously as she stalked off home to explain why she needed a pair of well-fitting trousers and some waterproof walking boots to the idiotic old men she was related to.
Tony was quietly musing to himself that at least his day couldn’t get any more bizarre when a fairy appeared as if from nowhere.
This wasn’t just any fairy though. This fairy was The Director Fairy, and The Director Fairy was even more powerful than The Costume Fairy.
The Costume Fairy was in charge of what the creatures of Tony’s world looked like. But the Director Fairy shaped their whole lives. She gave them excellent advice on what to say and how to behave, taught them the best routes to get around the world, and generally made sure the creatures didn’t make total tits of themselves. She ruled the kingdom with kindness but also a firm hand.
In order not to piss The Director Fairy off, The Costume Fairy had put a respectful amount of effort into her outfit. She made her a beautiful blue handkerchief skirt consisting of many layers of shiny fabrics. She embellished her top by hand with silver and blue sparkly ribbon and twinkly chord. She made her a hand embroidered brooch in the shape of a flower, which was dotted with glistening beads, metallic paint, and jazzed up with yet more blue sparkly ribbon and twinkly chord. She even bought her the most beautiful pair of big blue wings covered in iridescent glitter.
The Costume Fairy hated glitter. She hated how it got stuck to everything and no matter how much you washed, scrubbed, and cleaned or how much time passed since you came into contact with the glitter in question it stubbornly refused to leave whatever surface it had become attached to. But The Director Fairy loved glitter. She loved how it glimmered and shimmered under the bright lights of their world and how special it made her feel. The Costume Fairy took a deep breath and put her hatred for glitter aside. She wanted to make The Director Fairy happy, so she bought her the big blue wings covered in iridescent glitter and hardly complained about it at all.
“Hello Tony,” The Director Fairy said as she landed gracefully on his lily pad.
Tony wasn’t sure what to say. It’s not every day that the ruler of your world casually pops by your lily pad for a chinwag, some juicy flies, and a cup of tea. He didn’t exactly know the protocol.
“Your majestic overlordliness, how may I, your humble servant, be of assistance? Maybe you’d like a cup of tea or a slice of fly pie. I made it myself this morning!” groveled Tony.
“Enough of that rubbish,” scoffed The Director Fairy, who didn’t have time for such toadying nonsense, “Tony, I hear you’ve got a problem. It’s been brought to my attention that you’re not happy with the feet The Costume Fairy gave you. I’ve been told that you think they’re stupid and that you don’t look like a real frog. Is this true?”
Tony shuffled from funny foot to funny foot and thought about what he should say in response. He knew The Costume Fairy and The Director Fairy were good friends and was worried that if he said anything out of turn about The Costume Fairy then The Director Fairy would be very cross indeed.
“Well, erm, maybe,” Tony replied, “Don’t get me wrong, when I’m sitting still on my lily pad eating flies, they look great. But the other creatures laugh at my toes, when I hop around my pond. They do wibble and wobble about in such a peculiar way.”
The Director Fairy paused for a moment, which made Tony very nervous. Was he about to be thrown out of their world for being a whiny little frog? Was The Director Fairy going to frog march him over to The Costume Fairy to apologise for being rude about the outfit she’d made for him? Was The Director Fairy going to chop off his feet for being so ungrateful? He wasn’t very keen on his feet, but they were certainly better than no feet at all.
“Tony,” said the Director Fairy, “You have to understand a few things about The Costume Fairy. She’s doing her best. We live in a lovely world and we make lovely things, but we’re short on time and resources and she has to do the best she can with what she’s got. She’s never made frog’s feet before. They were bound to come out a little rough around the edges.”
“I suppose,” Tony grunted, not really feeling much better about the whole situation.
“Also, The Costume Fairy is a spooky little creature,” The Director Fairy continued, “If she can’t make you look like something out of a Tim Burton movie, she’s not going to give you the time of day. That’s just the way she is.”
“I understand,” Tony begrudgingly replied, “Everyone has their own favourite styles and tastes, I guess. But I do wish the other creatures wouldn’t make fun of me so much.”
“Ah, well, maybe I can help you feel a bit better about that. Let me tell you something Tony. Those French rats may have more realistic tales and the three cackling crows may be The Costume Fairy’s favourite creatures. But you, Tony, you’re my favourite. Shall I tell you why?” The Director Fairy leaned over to Tony and whispered in his ear, “I love your funny, wiggly, wobbly, froggy feet! I think they’re some of The Costume Fairy’s best work!”
Tony couldn’t believe it. He hated his stupid squiggly feet. How could it be that the ruler of this world loved them so very much?
The Director Fairy explained to Tony, over a cup of tea and a piece of fly pie, that being The Director Fairy was a very difficult job. She had so very much to do and so little time to do it in. She was even busier and even thinner stretched than The Costume Fairy. This meant The Director Fairy was often very stressed out and in need of something to make her smile. She told Tony that his flappy feet brought joy to her heart and made her feel better when she was having a bad day. She very much enjoyed looking down from her overlord cloud, seeing Tony singing his songs about juicy flies and tapping his happy hoppy feet along to the beat.
This all came as quite a shock to Tony. He had no idea that his feet, that he’d always felt so self-conscious about, could make someone else so happy. If someone as magical and special as The Director Fairy could love his funny feet so much, maybe they weren’t so bad after all.
“Thanks for the tea Tony. And the pie. It was delicious,” lied The Director Fairy as she picked a rogue fly out of her teeth, “I hope I’ve made you feel a little better about your feet. Just remember next time you’re hopping around your pond to give those toes an extra big wiggle for me. See you soon, Tony!”
And The Director Fairy flapped her wings and disappeared leaving nothing in her wake but a pile of blue glitter.
Tony glanced down at the glitter on his lily pad and thought about how he’d be living with a glittery floor forever now. Then he decided that might not be such a bad thing after all. That glitter would remind him that he and his whimsical frog feet were loved and appreciated, no matter what those dumb crows and rats thought of him.
He was special.
He was Tony.
The frog with The Director Fairy’s favourite feet.