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.

Monday, 16 May 2016

A mort for words?

My mother's first typewriter had no shift-key; capitals were mixed with lower-case letters on a huge shelf-like keyboard. From them, aged about eight, I picked out a story about a boxer fighting a cheat given to "heel-gouging".

Later, for the newspaper, using my own portable, I reviewed amateur plays, reported AGMs and court cases and transcribed interviews with local celebrities. For a slew of magazines I covered bike and motorbike races, described how to build a hi-fi loudspeaker enclosure and publicised apartment block developments. Towards retirement I explained how carefully-planned warehouses combined with forklift trucks could save companies cash, time and space.

I wrote many, many letters.

I learned facility: I could write a thousand-word article directly on to the typewriter in an hour.

In my spare time I wrote novels:

SHE sat on the sharp rim of the bath, balanced her odd little mirror on the window-sill, peered myopically and started to arrange her hair. This was how her day started.


short stories:

When United gave away the second goal Taylor’s treble voice died and enthusiasm turned to fractiousness. He kicked the seat in front – happily unoccupied – and looked away from the pitch. She’d have bought him a burger if the price hadn’t been beyond her.

and sonnets:

It suits me well, the role of absentee.
One mention, then perhaps a genteel cough;
Soon lost in bouncing waves of repartee

Until this year I couldn't imagine not writing. Now I can. In exchange for being able to sing Quilter's setting of Oh Mistress Mine, in tune and with a solid tone.


  1. While I'm so pleased that your singing is rewarding, I'm also tickled whenever I find a new TD post up. Well... more than tickled, really. Imagining "not writing" is fine...a tribute to your passion for singing. But even a significant reduction in TD would leave a hole in my life, and, i'm sure, the lives of many others. Whatever's best for you of course.

  2. MikeM: You'll notice I didn't include any time span, imagining that natural causes were just as likely to overtake me as the assumption of unexpected skills.

    But events were about to take an odd turn. I was familiar with another setting of Oh Mistress Mine by a composer called Parry, mentioning this to V on my first lesson. Quite firmly she told me that Quilter was superior. Wishing to curry favour I bought the Quilter score and did my best - on my own - to absorb its very English intricacies. I didn't think I'd made much progress but an interesting technical point arose and I mentioned it to V at this morning's lesson.

    As we discussed the tech point it became obvious that this is a song very much after V's heart and she couldn't resist unleashing her lovely voice to illustrate the tune's brilliance. From then it was only a small step for her to decide that OMM would be my next official study.

    Now here's the peculiar point. Inspired by her accompaniment (piano and voice) I threw myself into singing it and found I knew far more of the song than I thought. Confidence grew and by the end of the lesson I had already advanced into matters of interpretation.

    So it's possible I may be nearer to singing it properly than I expected. But without the Faustian pact! (ie, giving up writing.) Meanwhile I must now break off and concentrate on:

    Trip no further, pretty sweeting,
    Jouneys end in lovers' meeting

    For the moment silence doesn't look an option.

  3. It's a good thing we don't in fact have to make these choices, yet our perpetual obsession with the conditional makes us consider them.

    That old typewriter is a wonder, I never considered there were such things before the shift key was invented.

  4. Which is the version sung by Peter Pears, which is as close to perfect as it is possible to be?

  5. Lucy: "perpetual obsession with the conditional" - how well expressed. A malady for the twenty-first century and for old age. Twenty minutes ago I lay in bed trying to sing the Quilter setting in my head and hearing it - terrifyingly - merge into the Parry version which I have known much longer. Feeling awful (ie, amateurish) about this, not wanting to let down V, but realising this is the penalty one pays when one absorbs music by ear alone as I've done since birth. Scores are a very new development.

    Eventually I worked up a reasonable speed on the double-keyboard typewriter; saw it only as beneficial since it freed me from my illegible handwriting.

    Fed: It isn't often one come upon a Peter Pears enthusiast; the tendency is to describe his voice as "an acquired taste", the grossest of euphemisms. No doubt we should all be grateful for the way he inspired Benjamin Britten but for me - and others - he was a barrier to appreciating Britten. I'd owned a PP version of Les Illuminations for years, played it twice, couldn't get on with it. Then at the Presteigne Festival I heard a soprano sing it and it was clear I wasn't alone. During the fervent applause people on the row in front turned round - their faces joyful, saying something like "Why, it's beautiful." Clearly they were like me, they'd only known the PP version.

    As to listening to famous singers doing versions of the songs I've studied for my music lessons, I have to be careful. Some stick to the score (especially Bryn Terfel), others embellish and edit. Often it's more instructive to listen to an amateur on YouTube just getting the notes (more particularly the phrasing) right.

    A perfect version of the Quilter? I'm not sure I've yet heard it. It almost has to be sung by someone English; the writing (let alone the words, of course) is complex and idiosyncratic and yet sounds initially artless. In that sense PP may qualify, but for me there would be a lot of accretions to be scraped away first.

  6. Sorry, RR, personal circuitry malfunction although I have proved I am not a robot...
    I meant Alfred Deller, who sings a different version but I still don't know whose it is.

  7. Fed: 'twas that fecund Middle Ages composer - Anon. I'm a bit iffy with counter-tenors, I fear

  8. My favorite, from a small sampling, is this Philip Summerscales rendition


  9. MikeM: Snap! I used Summerscales for a few days since he met most of my needs: he sang it straight, he's English, he sings in tune (not surprising given his G&S background). But after a while I tired of his rather jolly attempts at passion - I'm pretty picky these days. Now I use a version by a young American David McCoul: his voice is harsher and his pronunciation occasionally weird. But he's much faster (and this tests me better) and there is more life in his singing. He sings at Northwestern U, Evanston, and I have unhappy memories of Illinois but never mind, he'll do for the moment

  10. Well the comments thread seems to have hooked onto the "singing" and, with exceptions, fallen away from your writing. So I will say that I always enjoy (but don't necessarily agree)with the views you express so cogently and elegantly. I would be sorry to see you reduce your blogging flow, which I read every day. No doubt your singing, which you are embracing so enthusiastically, gives you great pleasure, but in my county of Kent it is not possible to hear it emanating from your Welsh border town.

    The one thing I took from my army service was the facility to semi touch type, which I learnt on the huge old Imperial which sat in front of me in the company office each day. It was either that or succumb to boredom since the work was far from arduous. I learnt, by experiment, to dismantle and reassemble that Imperial into its constituent parts. In comparison, I also achieved the military distinction of "First Class Shot" with the standard issue .303 Lee Enfield on the rifle range (and gloried in the sleeve-flash of a rifle surmounted by a star to prove it)

  11. I would have preferred 'Un Mot pour la Morte' as a title - more dramatic.
    I expressly forbid you to give up writing Robbie - down here in the West Country one can't hear even the best singing from Hereford.
    I learnt to touch type in New Zealand, my Aunt told me that it would be the most useful thing I ever learned, she was right but I left it too late to tell her. It was an old fashioned school and we used manual typewriters. Excellent training but I never quite got the numbers!

  12. Avus: So... equipped to type out the MS of The Critique of Pure Reason, if not to write it, I see (if I read between the lines) you would nevertheless prefer to go to war and kill people. The crossed rifles of the markmanship badge (in the RAF anyway) at a distance look very much like the skull and crossbones. As old Henry IV said to his son, "The wish was father to the thought, Hal."

    Blonde Two: Yes, but mine's more literary. The original reason for silence had a grave flaw; I'll need to write to tell people what they are missing if they stuff up their ears with sealing wax. To sing is to expand the use of words.