• Brooke Patricia


“i come from two countries

one is thirsty

the other is on fire

both need water...

i held an atlas in my lap

ran my fingers across the whole world

and whispered

where does it hurt?

it answered



everywhere.” – Warsan Shire: What They Did Yesterday Afternoon

If home is where the heart is, then mine’s the world over.

I’m so grateful to experience the best of both city and country life on my travels. For me, the pros of one are often the cons of the other.

I’m continually asked about the West End compared to my hometown of Woodville. Here’s a handful of differences between London, a city of just under 10 million people, and a village of just over 1000.

1. Oxford Street vs Oxford Road. The former sees around the equivalent of New Zealand’s population pound the pavement every week. The latter doesn’t even have a pavement. If I throw on my fluorescents and keep left, I’m like an abstract splash of neon pink on an original Monet. I’m also often the only pedestrian enjoying the peace and serenity of it. Maybe that’s because of the 100km/hr speed zone. But the pace is much the same in Oxford Street. It’s just that if I don’t keep left there, I’m likely to get physically shouldered in that direction and wind up smearing Rimmel red all over the shiny glass window of Selfridges.

2. Trafalgar Square vs Fountain Square. The former has a really big fountain. The latter doesn’t have one at all. But it does have Woodville’s only public gym. Both Oxford Street and Oxford Road offer great cardio. The former can also be great for your biceps, if you actually make it through the door of Selfridges and emerge with substantial shopping. Those black and yellow bags are like bees to this honey. But I’m all for free resistance training, done correctly and with medical clearance. I don’t want anyone hurting their washboard abs. The vandal proof equipment is strong and sturdy. It might be outdoors. But there’s always towels for both perspiration and rain, hail, frost, etc. (Bring your own, obviously. This isn’t Virgin Active in Angel, Islington). You need a pretty thick skin to use this gym in another way, too. It’s situated right next to the Square’s jovial playground, where kids may be found dangling effortlessly on their own equipment whilst you try and hold your own body weight with equal finesse.

3. Four Square vs Sainsbury’s. The latter is a UK supermarket chain. Woodville doesn’t have one of those. Or even a supermarket, as such. But it does have the local Four Square which is given the thumbs up by its nationally recognised icon Cheeky Charlie, and locals alike. It keeps us in both extras and essentials. (Bread, not knickers, although you can get those too).

4. The Ivy vs Fish Spot. The former does the best rarebit in the world. The latter doesn’t sell rarebit. Well, it’s a British dish. It’s also basically just posh cheese on toast. I’ve never had fish at The Ivy. But that doesn’t matter because with regards to the great debate surrounding which two letters – UK or NZ – have the best fush n chups, I’m Team Kiwi.

5. The Kings Head vs Bert’s (pub, not noggin). Unless you know my London local, don’t ask me to meet you at The Kings Head. Almost every second watering hole in the UK is named after a royal body part. Woodville has two pubs – The Central and Bert’s. (Actually, the latter is called The Masonic, but my local cobbers and I call it Bert’s because... a bloke called Bert owns it). You won’t miss either of these pubs. If you go to the wrong one then the alternative is conveniently nearby, along with the rest of the town. So you don’t need to worry about getting a taxi home. That’s just as well, too, because there aren’t any.

But the biggest difference between London and Woodville, for me personally, is that the former is crowded with theatre and the latter has no crowds, as sadly it has no theatre anymore. It has been my pleasure and privilege to bring a bit of the West End to Woodville via my voluntary radio show of the same name, wherever I can. It’s an eclectic mix of show tunes, stories and the occasional chinwag with someone exciting who I’m working with – or have done, or will be.

I will be back later this month. Let’s have a chat about how we can make Woody stagey again.

The am drams gave me my grounding. A very special eight year old just learned Mum and I’s special song, Somewhere Over The Rainbow, all for me. She sang it on karaoke. Her own Mum recorded it on her phone and messaged it. It broke my heart, not only because of this girl’s gesture but also her lack of access to the training and experience that some of the talented youngsters I’ve worked with in London are privy to. Yet she has just as much passion and potential. I’d love to see her sing on stage one day, naturally as my alter ego – Dorothy, of course.

There really is no place like home and home really is where the heart is. I’m at home in a theatre. So I can’t spend too long where there isn’t one. I relate more to Oz than Kansas, but am under no illusions by apparent wizards.

Whether city life is better than country life is arguably one of the biggest debates among humans. I happily teeter around the middle of the greener pastures spectrum in both ruby slippers and Skellerups. Whilst I don’t dig my heels in the mud, my gumboots – Wellys, if you’re British – are a fashion fandango somewhat symbolic of my life locales. They’re covered in both bling and cow pat. I wouldn’t have them any other way, either. No matter where I go or what I do, they’re always there on Mum and Dad’s doorstep to be clicked three times and keep me grounded in more ways than one.