● Lady Percy moves me - might she move you? CLICK TO FIND OUT
● Plus my novels, stories, verse, vulgar interests, apologies, and singing.
● Most posts are 300 words. I respond to all comments/re-comments.
● See Tone Deaf in New blogger.

Tuesday 28 June 2022

Wanting to be two

Once I’d started taking singing lessons (January 2016) I had this urge to co-operate in duets, especially with a soprano. Why? Perhaps because a second voice might make the role of solo baritone less exposed, less lonely.

V tried me out with We’ll Gather Lilacs from Ivor Novello’s operetta Perchance to Dream. To say the least, operetta, ie, light opera (ugh!), has never been my thing but that wasn’t the problem. V’s powerful voice – even turned down to pianissimo  – pulled my fledgling voice off my singing line. So duets were shelved for a while.

A new dawn broke a year later when V tried the Pappageno/Pamina duet, Bei Männern from Mozart’s The Magic Flute. I did progress but it wasn’t a true test. As a listener I’d known this musical dialogue for ages through regularly hearing the opera. As a result I was less prone to being influenced by the second voice.

More recently still V offered me Purcell’s My Dearest, My Fairest. I really liked this poignant work and worked hard at getting it right. I definitely progressed but – again without explanation – V dropped it. I never question V’s decisions; she has, after all, created my singing voice. But I secretly yearned.

Three weeks ago, humbly, I begged her to resurrect My Dearest. She agreed. And that we should persist for as long it took. Again she agreed. And now I knew why she broke off the first sessions. Then I needed more tuition in musical technicalities, especially subtleties of pitch. Now I’m better equipped. It’s hard, bloody hard but there are moments when our voices fuse. And it’s bloody wonderful

Click HERE to find out what I’m aiming for.

Sunday 19 June 2022

Should I have been allowed to live?

Westland Lysander only has a walk-on role below

I am watching a YouTube video of someone flying a Westland Lysander, an odd WW2 high-level wings plane used for reconnaissance and for night-landing secret agents into France. No Spitfire glamour here, yet this plane is quite complex for its time, supporting very short take-off and landing distances, sometimes on mountain sides.

I have known the Lysander since age eight. Having read material supplied to my father, a member of the Royal Observer Corps during WW2, identifying planes passing near my home town, Bradford.

Some of the video corresponds with what I already know about the Lysander and this pleases me. In the 78 years between then and now my interest in this arcane subject has developed, if only in a minor way. More important, is the general fact of this continuing development.

Very important, in fact. Unsustained by any belief in a supernatural after-life I reflect instead on whether I’ve “improved” on what I was born with. Seeing it as a secular justification for being handed out a life (now nearing its end) in the first place. True I’ve nourished my knowledge of WW2 aviation but what about more serious, more demanding matters?

I’m better at expressing myself, even if – sure as eggs are eggs – what I am saying here will, almost certainly, be misunderstood. I note I didn’t respond well to the transition into parenthood, although this has improved somewhat over the last decade. Learning to sing has – amazingly! – taught me to analyse music. I became a better skier and a better crawl swimmer. I am, I think, less selfish though others would have to confirm this. My views, once grossly nationalistic, are now international. Born shy, I now revel in conversation.

Was it a life worth living? Hmm. 

Sunday 12 June 2022

Oh to be in Dublin

Bought new in the USA.
Dust-jacket many times repaired

James Joyce’s novel, Ulysses, is nearing Bloomsday – June 16 – it’s hundredth celebration of the day it describes. Ulysses is famous, not least that it can be summarised numerically. Based on the select band who say they read “for pleasure” here are some figures:

Heard of it – 99%
Seen it on sale – 17%
Bought it new – 2%
Picked it up secondhand – 5%
Read the first page – 100% of those who own it
Read the second page – 4% (ditto above)
Read it all through – 0.05% (ditto above)
Read it a second time (or more) – 0.0002% (ditto).

Regular Tone Deaf readers (a rapidly diminishing breed, alas) will know I am not famed for my humility. With that kind of introduction you wouldn’t expect me to admit belonging to the First-Page Brigade. I have, in fact, read Ulysses twice – if not thrice, I sort of forget. Nor will the faithful be surprised when I say this post will exceed my self-imposed limit of 300 words. The subject is too important for less.

So what’s it about? Two men - Leo Bloom (a Jew who sells advertising space) and Stephen Dedalus (youngish, over-active intellectually, given to high-flying conversation) - pursue their lives in Dublin over the course of a day. Late at night they meet and find common cause.

Both have serious matters on their mind. During the day Bloom’s wife, Molly, will be unfaithful to him in bed with the exotically named Blazes Boylan. Stephen’s mother has recently died, he refusing to make the Catholic observances about death she begs of him prior to her death.

The novel ends with a forty-five page soliloquy – no punctuation other than half a dozen para breaks – in which Molly Bloom reflects on being a woman.

Ulysses is by far the most adult book I’ve read. To summarise it – other than numerically, tongue in cheek – is beyond me. Instead here are extracts which may give you the tiniest flavour of what you are missing. That said, I have never – would never – recommend reading it. The urge to do so must be internal, a willingness to wrestle with difficulties implicit.

STEPHEN. And now his strongroom for the gold. Stephen’s embarrassed hand moved over the shells heaped in the cold stone mortar; whelks and money cowries and leopard shells: and this, whorled as an emir’s turban, and this, the scallop of Saint James. An old pilgrim’s hoard, dead treasure, hollow shells.

BLOOM. He has seen a fair share go under in his time, lying around him field after field. Holy fields. More room if they buried them standing. Sitting or kneeling you couldn’t. Standing? His head might come up some day above ground in a landslip with his finger pointing.

STEPHEN ….went down Bedford row, the handle of the ash clacking against his shoulderblade. In Clohissey’s window a faded1860 print of Heenan boxing Sayers. Staring backers with square hats stood round the roped prizering. The heavyweights in light loincloths proposed gently each to other his bulbous fists. And they are throbbing : heroes’ hearts.

He turned and halted by the slanted bookcart.

- Two pence each, the huckster said. Four for sixpence.

- Tattered pages. The Irish Beekeeper. Life and Miracles of the Curé of Ars. Pocket Guide to Killarney.

BLOOM In liver gravy, Bloom mashed potatoes. Love and war someone is. Ben Dollard’s famous. Night he ran round to us to borrow a suit for that concert. Trousers tight as a drum on him. Musical porkers. Molly did laugh when he went out. Threw herself across the bed, screaming.

MOLLY ….he hadn’t an idea about my mother till we were engaged otherwise hed never have got me so cheap as he did he was 10 times worse himself anyhow begging me to give him a tiny bit cut off my drawers that was the evening coming along Kenilworth square he kissed me in the eye of my glove and I had to take it off asking me questions is permitted to inquire the shape of my bedroom…

Thursday 9 June 2022

A wee bit of politics


Blonde Boris was born into riches
And now misbehaves day and night
His hair sends a clue
He has little to do
And breaks rules as if ‘twas his right

In the course of a typical sentence
He’s likely to lie more than thrice
For truth is his flirt
He treats her like dirt
Or a casual throw of the dice

He’s not strong on detail, they say,
Big Things are his forte – why not?
The bigger the fib,
The fewer will jib
As a theory it’s worth hankie s—t.

On one thing he stays strangely mute
Yet trumpeted loud yesteryear:
Out’s better than in,
On that side is sin,
Who cares what our exporters fear

Yes, Brexit was ready to cook
A joint that was almost roast
We’d feast and grow fat.
Tell the Ee Yew: Take that!
But alas the meat’s now merely toast

Saturday 4 June 2022

Political update from the UK

All the women's hats were worn sideways. Go figure

I would have liked to simmer my happiness pot (see previous post) a little longer but, as a former Tory prime minister once said, “Events, dear boy. Events.” Never a truer word.

Yesterday the BBC covered the service at St Pauls Cathedral (it’s in London) celebrating the Queen’s 70-year reign. The Queen, who isn’t well, was unable to attend. I didn’t watch mainly because, in my even longer reign over the kingdom of Robinsonia, one royal event resembles a hundred others.

Later I saw a video clip – on a mobile – that revealed the crowd surrounding the cathedral booing the arrival of our egregious prime minister, Boris Johnson. This pleased me. The public is normally limited to expressing its feelings just once every four years at the ballot box. The booing was immediate and visceral, thus satisfying.

But there was more. I watched the clip again via a much better sound system feeding the TV. Clearly some people had also cheered. This spoiled my vindictive good humour. But how would the BBC refer to the booing during the late evening news? With a long pair of tongs: “The prime minister arrived to a mixed reception.”

I should explain. For complicated ideological reasons the Tory party is seeking to dismantle the BBC, one of the few British institutions we can be proud of. I didn’t expect the news-reader to revel in this spontaneous reaction.

Yes, bad taste was involved. The Queen and all that. But the public is suffering under JohnsonGov and booing was hardly a surprise. Some booers would be returning to homes without heating; gas costs a fortune. And Brexit is more a bucket of vipers than a can of worms.

Musical note: a loud whistle pierced the boos. Someone had come prepared. No doubt, whistles are contemptuous.

Thursday 2 June 2022

Mooses can cure

What constitutes happiness? Best not to rush into this. Happiness shared communally with others is self-evident and needs no explanation. The more difficult form is private, inner happiness shared only with oneself. Difficult because I’m sure it differs widely from person to person. Some find it on noisy occasions, others in silence. Neither is superior to the other.

I am happy learning how to sing but not all the time; not surprising since lessons are an examination of failure. I find happiness drinking champagne but it is transitory and the first glass is better than those that follow. I am happy during the act of writing (providing the word flow is satisfactory) but may be unhappy when I read the result. Search for happiness and it’s almost odds-on I won’t find it. I doubt it can be planned. It tends to ooze and is at its best when unexpected.

A rare though powerful form is happiness that may emerge from adversity. My present illness has affected the family and I’m sorry to have been the unwitting source of these uncertainties. On the other hand, the sense of family has been strengthened. This may not qualify as happiness but it is welcome.

I derive happiness from others’ skills. Comedians’ wisecracks have to be spot on to create a quick flash of joy; what really gets to me are comparatively lengthy comic narratives with a growing sense of fun. Woody Allen’s tale about shooting the moose is one such unremitting crescendo. Physicists who explain their arcane world in simple terms reveal its beauty – an abstract concept – and thereby please me. A high jumper describes an impossible curve in the air and it’s a delight.

Happiness is fragile and cannot be called up. Rarer than we think. A blessing, perhaps.