I am moved by Lady Percy 's expression of love. CLICK HERE - see if you agree.
Otherwise my novels, short stories, verse, family, music, memories, vulgar interests, detestations,
responses, apologies. I hold posts to 300 words* having found less is better than more.
I re-comment on comments and re-re-re-comment on re-re-comments.
* One exception: short stories.

Wednesday, 10 February 2016

Steep stuff

And now the grind, except I must not see it as that. Doing so closes off the route to those eminences far higher than the Himalayas (mere physical excrescences): the range that includes Mounts Leporello, Marschallin and Erlkönig.

It is V's job to teach. Her encouragement continues but mixed with less welcome matters. I am asked to reproduce continuous mounting and descending triads with octaves (doh-me-so-doh; doh-so-me-doh) legato style - ie, without gaps. Easy-peasy, I used to do this quite plausibly on the trumpet, moving up a note at a time.

But what's this? V tells me me that I sharpen the descending "so". By something less than a semitone, to be sure, but in music, just as in affairs between men and women, there is no such thing as "slightly" pregnant. And, a few minutes later, V unintentionally re-makes the point by filling the room with a sustained, powerful and glorious mid-range note of her own making that fictitious range of peaks seem much more distant.

But how can I rectify this fault practising on my own at home? Who's to guide me? I acquire recording software, and sing my Ghanaian warm-up song, Tu-we tu-we, Barima tu-we tu-we, into the computer. After ten goes all the notes sound to be there but it isn't really music - more the sound of a robot still in nappies (US: diapers).

I must be careful not to be despondent; there is progress and I know it. But that resounding soprano note - say, middle C - I heard days before in Little Dewchurch still echoes in my ears. I must have faith, and in so many ways. And this time it's not to be found in words I string together.

Saturday, 6 February 2016

The compliment dilemma

Compliments are hard work; it's easier - alas - to be nasty.

The vocabulary associated with compliments is parched, over-familiar and lazy. The impulse to compliment may be sincere, but the end-product may look as if it had been assembled in a factory. Hmmm, says the recipient, instead of Wow! The sentiment need not be original but it must be originally expressed.

I don't attract many compliments, one reason being I raise unpopular subjects like this. Sarky bugger, people think, and they're right. Actually, that can be read as a sort of compliment but only by a sarky bugger.

I had ten minutes to go before the final episode of  a heartless French political drama series on telly. I pulled out a poetry collection and from it fluttered a card written by the person who had given me the used book. Here's an extract:

"I like this but don't need to keep it, and thought his voice sounded a bit like yours in certain places... or maybe I find him a bit too dry and clever for me."

That word "voice" is carefully chosen. No attempt to suggest that my barely finished stuff in any way resembles the poet's ultra-professional work. Only that I share an attitude with the poet who, I must confess, is somewhat cynical. Not wholly likeable.

This is nevertheless a compliment. The writer has flattered me by getting to know my little ways and is unafraid to be honest about them. Knows me well enough for that too. Since I own up to being cynical and often unlikeable how could I grumble? Truth can be received in different ways.

There are two further qualifications. The phrase "a bit like" ensures I don't get too big-headed. And I'm left to speculate about the indirectness of "dry and clever".

As I say, compliments are hard work.

PS: "Sarky" is knowingly sarcastic. And, no, I will not identify the poet.

Friday, 5 February 2016

Uncaring youth

Trolley bus had open entrance at rear: good for "legging off"
Kids are insensitive wretches. Tending - at best – to ignore adults, at worst to treat them as enemies. I was a boy you see.

Going to school by trolley bus I never waited for it to stop before descending. I experimented: what was the highest bus speed for "legging off"? Hitting the ground running, to match the speed of the vehicle I'd left. I found my limit and came home bloody. My mother worried but did I care? Not a jot.

A nearby flat-roof garage was set into the hillside. I could walk on to the flat roof, climb its surrounding wall and shuffle round three sides of the building (20 feet above ground at the front) on an elevated pathway three bricks wide. A quandary for watching neighbours: Leave me be or remonstrate, perhaps causing me to fall off? Hah!

Then swimming in an operative canal (say no more), motorbikes and rock climbing. But, you say, I too became an adult. Alas for those who prayed for my just deserts. My kids were girls, too sensible for such idiocies.

Fairness in the after-life?  It's run by Jahweh who probably had a wild youth.

Hardline Hope, a novel (13,369 words)
“Is selling a step up?” Amber asked.

“Not as such but it can lead to different places. Office manager is a dead end.”

“Didn’t Leesha do something like that? On the free newspaper?”


“Caribbean family; one year ahead of us.”

Lindsay waved her hand faintly. “Good grief, I can hardly keep up with our lot, let alone other classes. Why do you mention her?”

“It didn’t do her any good. They hired and fired almost seasonally.”

Monday, 1 February 2016

Late developer

Like some unwanted old bassoon,
Sad comic of the orchestra,
Conduit of mistaken farts and groans,
Now left to gather attic dust,
Reeds split, keypads unstuck, the case
A velvet nest for mice and memories
Of Bartok and a starring Mozart role,
My voice responded only to a daily round,
Of supermarkets and desultory chat,
Of booking dentists and of movie seats.
An aural calling card but nothing
More, no call for skills or pleasantry.

But under tutelage it stirred at chords,
Aping their sonority. Catching the
Flight of clear soprano séductrice,
Adapted to instructive work.
My God! Such wanton eagerness!
Unhampered by those obstacles
Of hoarseness and of ignorance. This was
Immediacy, a sense that would improve,
That would disgorge the mystic dancing dots,
Their tones, their times, their links to all
Those godlike names and temperaments:
And there’s a jeux de mots to start the course.

Modest repeated echoes of a phrase,
A line, a verse and then the whole damn song,
The voice alone engaged; I left my mind
Behind just then; later I’ll comprehend
How sounds elide, combine and ultimately affect
Those cords – not chords – within the throat,
And I become a child again, helpless yet,
But loving it, the willing victim of a force
That, through adult complicity, tells of a
Language I may speak with competence,
Newly equipped and willing to discourse
About the better side of things.

Note: Rewritten before and after lunch.

Friday, 29 January 2016

Idyll schmiddle

A horrid earworm which attaches banal words to the fifth movement of LvB's Pastoral can easily put you off the whole symphony:

The countree, the countree,
It's better than the town...

What's more, it isn't true. I've got proof.

We lunched at The Three Horsehoes yesterday and it was immediately assumed we were there for the Pensioners' Special. Yes, we look old but not necessarily indigent. VR was satisfied with her fishcakes but the onion gravy that came with my bangers and mash betokened the industrial laboratory rather than the kitchen. Round about, old codgers made a point of not looking at their wives.

We emerged from the pub to an absolutely hideous smell. "Pig-shit," said VR who profanes rarely. The road was covered with unspeakable gobbets that had fathered the smell. Nearby the police spoke to a tractor driver whose trailer had leaked the gobbets.

Inside our car the smell was even worse; the tyres had picked up essence of crushed gobbet turning the interior into a rural sewer. Worse was to come. At home I garaged the car and since the garage is integral with the house the smell eased its way into the utility room and thence to the kitchen. Understand we're not talking horse manure, here; that's quite pleasant. Pigs are nominally vegetarians but this lot had surely feasted on the putrefying bodies of their dead comrades.

Today it rained; never had I so welcomed a downpour.

Tell you what: our previous home was in the intensely urban Kingston-upon-Thames area and nothing our town-life threw at us ever matched that smell. And I don't go for waiters who decide in a flash I'm at the bottom end of the food-chain - in either sense.

Tuesday, 26 January 2016

Did I really think it was easy?

Mistakes. During home practice errors are legion. I don't have perfect pitch and picking the right note (especially if it's highish) after a pause can be a lottery, despite fifty repeats.

I sing whole words as whole words instead of splitting them up and glueing them to other word parts; eg, "stepped away" where I should have sung "ste... -e- (sustained note rises here)... pta-way".

I don't breathe in regularly or enough; passages fade like dying whales.

I sing symmetrically varying phrases backwards-way round; thus "...for (down) your (up) lack (back down)..." becomes "...for (up) your (down) lack (back up)..."

Rewards. I told V journalism had taught me to mistrust compliments; her compliments now make a direct appeal. Exhausted by rehearsing the Irish country song I was told I could finish off with the Mozart aria - something of a treat. When I'd sung it V said I sounded "apologetic": the perfect rebuke based on an unexpected epithet. I sang it again, asserting myself, and V said: "Just four weeks, and you own the song!" Ahhh.

But you must love failure too. It is the measure of tiny triumphs.

PS: V's skill is to make me try harder; the last session I came within a squeaker of two octaves. But do I seriously intend to become a castrato? Not in all senses

Hardline Hope, a novel (12,220 words)
Initially she’d been satisfied to escape Stanley’s scrutiny. Selling and all it entailed seemed entirely theoretical, remote, even exotic. And then, convulsively, she reviewed her daily round, recognised its dullness, its repetitions, its lack of skills, the phone calls that lacked status, the meaningless paper, the endless to-ing and fro-ing between other offices with her heels clacking futilely on the floor tiles. Quicker still she remembered Gayle, the very embodiment of self-dependency: “You should be doing better kid.”

Sunday, 24 January 2016

Ambushed by age

Ron above, RR below, many years ago
On Friday something old and odd.

Ron lives up North  and had just attended a funeral service at Hereford Cathedral. I'd picked him up in the car and we were off to a rural pub.

A long-time, tenor-voice chorister, and still influenced by the cathedral's music, Ron burst into Jerusalem along the Belmont Road. I joined him once he'd lowered the pitch. We knew each other's habits having started out in journalism in the early fifties with the same newspaper group in Bradford.

Jerusalem despatched, Ron now switched to a black-humoured rock-climbing song based on the tune of Carry Me Back To Green Green Pastures. He and I had both attended Outward Bound Mountain School and had subsequently climbed together. So I sang along too.

We reached the final verse:

Lay down my head towards old Gimmer,
My feet towards Bowfell,
A chunk of granite for my headstone,
An ice-axe to sound my knell.

I winced at the misplaced stress in those last two lines. Rubbishy verse.

Tectonic plates shifted in my mind. I turned to Ron: "Didn't I write that song?" He nodded.

I'd completely forgotten. Was glad I had.