Monday, 27 June 2011

Procrastination

Never do today what can be put off until tomorrow has been my life-long motto.

Not really funny, but basically true.

No-one who really knows me would ever accuse me of being decisive or dynamic or even ever-eager to help.

This is not because I don't want to help or even intend to help, it's just that getting started takes me a while.

At school I was described as lazy.  Reports said things like, she is capable of so much more, she never puts in enough effort, she needs constant reminding of deadlines.  She can turn in good work when she feels like it which is not often!

Friends would say "don't forget, let me know if  you can come to ......." and I would duly promise, then think oh well, I don't need to do that yet, there's plenty of time.  Then days, or weeks later I would be apologising for  having forgotten to let them know, turn up, do whatever they had (wrongly) assumed I had said I would do.  What I had actually said was "I'll think about it".

A three-year stint in the WRAC cured me of not meeting deadlines and I am never late for an appointment, that after all, is a question of good manners, but I just prefer time to be elastic.

Once started on a task I will give it my best shot and all the energy i can summon, but once completed, expect to be allowed recovery time.

My walking pace is practically Olympic, but once I've got where I need to be ordinary time takes over again.

Several of my neighbours find dropping in for a chat restfull and relaxing, while I find the pace of their lives horrifying.  They work full time, run their homes, act as parents, chauffeurs, sports-coaches and mentors to their children and still have time to socialise with friends.

I currently have a pile of ironing awaiting my attention but until it reaches Eiffel Tower height or the weather cooles down, whichever comes first, it will continue to grow.

Procrastination is indeed the thief of time but i can only assume that I come from a long line of cat burglars.

Saturday, 25 June 2011

Rude mini blog

Have just returned from a wedding in St. M's.
The choir were needed but there were only a few of us available, so filed into an unfamiliar stall, went to sit and found no seat!
Someone had not turned it back down, so  I lowered it with an almighty crash and turned to my neighbour saying "someone had left the seat up"
Quick as a flash came the reply, "must have been a man"!
Mild hysterics followed.
Oh i do love a wedding!

Friday, 24 June 2011

Busy Busy

After the events of Tuesday - see previous post - I have been taking things fairly quietly, or at least that was the intention.

This morning, for once timing my arrival at St M's to coincide with Morning Prayer I scuttled into the Lady Chapel expecting to have to apologise.  It was empty.  Only one other person was around so I settled down to await the start which in the event turned out to be led by our lovely Lay Priest.

As we were only four altogether I was asked to read one of the lessons.  Not something I've done more than twice before so a bit disconcerting, lots of unpronouncable names etc.  However all went reasonably well and after the service I waltzed off to get my brasso and cloths for the weekly finger-print removal.

My ribs were still hurting from Tuesdays gastric erruptions so progress was slow and there were several interruptions.  Two people wanting to collect their Banns certificates, duly dealt with, someone wanting some information about the history of the church architecture, glass etc.  Duly dealt with also, then, what really put me to the test, someone wanting me to pray with them for a sick relative.

This for me was  a first.  There was no way I could or would refuse but I felt very insecure and didn't really have any idea how to begin.  Somehow as soon as we sat down the words just came and a feeling of ease came out of nowhere,  I don't have any idea what I said, but it appeared to have been what was required and i was thanked with real gratitude (for what I have no idea) and the young lady departed.

I went back to cleaning the brass feeling tired but quite elated at what for most people would i suppose, have been a very run-of-the-mill morning.  For me it was a rewarding experience and despite a fairly hard choir rehearsal to follow this evening, this was a good day.

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Feak and Weeble

Have just spent a truly wretched few hours suffering from food poisoning. 

There was nothing in my normal lunch, a wholemeal seeded roll with cheese tomato and spring onion to cause any such dire result, though I did have some potato salad and drank a glass of smoothie with it.

An hour later I had agonising pain in my stomach which was blown up to football proportions, and could neither sit nor walk easily.

I'll lie down for a while I thought, see if it will ease the pain.

It got steadily worse till I was groaning and sweating and then was violently sick, then again and a third time.

Beginning to think of calling an ambulance, I rang the local surgery instead and when one of the GPs rang back was advised to simply - yes you've guessed it - lie down, sip cold water and wait for it to pass.

After another delightful throwing-up session I slept for four hours like a log and woke pain free.

Sipped more water, read for an hour or so slept again for a couple of hours and apart from feeling a bit
wobbly am now wide awake, and in full insomnia mode.

Not a pleasant experience and still at something of a loss as to the cause, I am nevertheless truly gratefull for the fact that I have the constitution of an ox and get over such things in half the time most of my peers take to do so.

Scarcely a matter of great interest to any but the oddest of readers but still worth noting that we are all prone to such (fortunately rare) manifestations of our human condition.

I know it's summer solstice and I am a Celt, but really there must be better ways to celebrate.

Thursday, 16 June 2011

Consider the Lilies

This weekend as I have mentioned before, I will be in Lincoln, thus missing Cardiff Singer of the World etc..........but also being unable to maintain 'cat watch'.

For anyone who imagines that the birds' mating season where they raise their young is a simple straightforward thing, helped by friendly humans with feeding and so on, you are reckoning without the input (or rather, the outtake) of cats.

I missed a young blackbird being snatched by a cat by mere seconds on Wednesday morning, so I was informed by my fellow bus passengers.  The poor mother bird had flown into the glass at the bus shelter in a vain attempt to get to the cat and was crouched, stunned in front of a group of helpless humans.  She was stunned but would obviously recover so we didn't feel too badly about her, but the poor baby.......

At home I keep an ear open for unusual alarm sounds from birds and am usually able to prevent too many murders by the neighbouring felines.

I would point out that I love cats equally as much as birds - just not in the same arena - and I noticed this morning that next to the 'you can't see me' huddled form of Hercules, the local ginger bandit, was, horror of horrors, a large yellow lily in full flower.

Much as I love lilies I thought i had removed every last one from the garden last year, but obviously this one escaped.  The reason for their eviction for anyone who may not know is that they are absolutely deadly poison to cats.  Every part of the lily is poisonous and if an unfortunate mog brushes past one with open flowers and later when grooming, licks the pollen from its fur it will die.  There is apparently almost nothing a vet can do to save a cat which has ingested lily pollen and the resulting illness and eventual death is long and wretched for both cat and owner.

Strange isn't it, that this most beautiful of flowers should have this lethal effect?

Just a plea to anyone who loves them too much to give up growing them, please try planting them in pots and keep them away from ground level.

I have just been out and dug up the lovely thing and put it in the compost!

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Wow Wow I did it!!!!!!

Thanks to the combined efforts of the greatly esteemed Vernacular Curate and my equally highly valued singing teacher (may the Lord reward their patience), I have actually managed to do this without the physical presence of either of them.

It had to happen sometime!

One million minus one to go!

This picture reminds  me of an opera I was involved in back in the late 70's.  It was called "Goyescas"
and the music was by the Spanish composer Granados.

The music is beautifull and so were the costumes.  Wardrobe however was unable to supply the ladies of the chorus with fans.  We were told to beg, borrow or steal black or white lace fans.

I was loudly (my usual decibel level) lamenting the lack of said accessory when the tenor lead said, quite without prompting, "My wife has an antique black lace fan on a tortoishell frame, it was  my grandmothers, you can borrow it"

To cut a long, embarassing story short, I did borrow, decided as it was very dusty I would wash it before returning it, and taking, I thought, very great care to hand-wash in soapflakes and rinse carefully, this lovely grubby thing I found upon drying it carefully with a hair dryer, that the lace had parted from the frets.

I think I went into every antique shop in London trying to discover what I could do to rescue the fan, without success until someone backstage suggested I try a few tiny drops of superglue.

Heart in mouth that was what I did, and to my amazement it worked very well indeed, so much so, that when I returned the fan without of course owning up to what had happened, the response from my tenor friend was "I don't know how you got it clean but it looks great, you can borrow  it again any time"!

I'm afraid I never did own up but since that day I have never borrowed anything of value from anyone.

Monday, 13 June 2011

Well, I've heard of bird-brains, but Butterfly brains?

This folks is another butterfly in case anyone is not familiar with the species.
Yes I have downloaded it (not all by myself) but there is a reasonable chance I may be able to do it again.

For all you brilliant technophiles I am not of your number (sadly), this may be apparent to the more discerning among  you, but the journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step - yes I know, I'm full of 'em aren't I.  Never an original thought!

Today should have been a singing lesson but both my esteemed teacher and I were somewhat tired and jaded and coffee and chat and a look at the computer, seemed a more reasonable option.  Hence the latest butterfly to emerge from its chrysalis.

If someone as ancient and technophobic as I, can learn just one tiny thing per week, and make it stick, there is hope for the world.

The problem with having what I choose to call not a goldfish, but a tadpole attention span is that all the hard won skills of yesterday become today's equivalent of mushy peas.

Just now and then a tiny spec of information adheres to the grey cell and clings on for dear life, let's hope downloading pictures is one such.

Saturday, 11 June 2011

Opera Contd......

For some obscure reason Blogger decided to cut me off in mid stream, so here is the remainder of the post:

I have't had a holiday since the year before John died (afew days in Utrecht in 2008), apart that is from a weekend with a group from St M's to Lincoln last June, which I will be repeating next weekend.

If there is anything I'd rather do than go on this Lincoln trip it is to see the whole of "Cardiff Singer" on TV.

I think my patron saint must have been looking the other way when these colliding dates were arranged, and no, I'm afraid I can't record the missing Friday (and possibly part of Saturday).  Mrs technophobe has no idea how to persuade the dvd recorder to accept the discs it keeps rejecting.

I do so wish I had been born 30 years later!

Opera - One way to sing

Glancing through the TV Times this afternoon I discovered that BBC2 this evening had a  half-hours introduction to my all-time favourite music programme.

Cardiff Singer of the World has had me enthralled for a week every two years since it first began (I think in the early eighties).

It is the most fabulous opportunity for anyone who loves opera and singing and has an interest in the human voice in all its glory, to get a sneak preview of some of the worlds' greatest potential opera stars.

For many years the late Dame Joan Sutherland was the chief patron and supporter of this wonderful competition.  This year Dame Kiri te Kanawa has taken her place.  (This is where I say, I sang - albeit in the chorus - with Kiri on several occasions when she was a student at The London Opera Centre).

Every time this competition is held I manage to miss one at least of the evening programmes.  In the past it always seemed to coincide with our holiday and John would programme the video to record the whole lot.

Part of the enjoyment for me is to choose the winner, each evening in the daily heats, and then the final winner from the 5 finalists.

This I have only once failed to do so it is a matter of pride to listen to every note and nuance to try to pick the winner.

The standard is incredibly high and many of the non-winners go on to great things, while the winners have the best opportunity anyone could wish for  to appear in the world's top opera houses and concert halls.  Quite often they are signed up by an opera house for a year or more, just on this one appearance.

This year I shall once again miss Friday's and probably a part of Saturday' s final. 

Friday, 10 June 2011

Squish ?

Getting home from shopping in town, just in time to avoid being drowned in a torrential shower, I didn't even look out of the window for about 20 minutes.

When I did it was to discover that one of my climbing roses has been almost totally denuded of flowers by the heavy rain.

As  soon as it stopped, I splashed warily up the garden to see if I could rescue any branches with buds still to open, by tiying them securely to the arch they were supposed to be climbing.

Arms scratched by thorns clothes soaked by wet foliage I saw out of the corner of my eye what I thought was a big spider.

Since I am an arachniphobe of the first water I hastily stepped back a yard or two watching the 'thing' to see what it would do.  What it did was to shake itself vigorously and re-settle on its leaf when I saw it was in fact a very large bumble bee.

Even had it been a spider I would not have squashed it - I never kill anything if I can help it- but since it was a bee this was suddenly a whole different ball-game.

All my life i have hated and feared spiders  while loving all bees, particularly bumble bees.  I am not and never have been a Buddhist but have an aversion to killing, and even horrible insects like blue-bottles get evicted rather than squished.  Bees on the other hand have been aided in all their weirder activities even when attempting to swim (for which they are ill-equipped), often by active rescue.

This morning's velvet-coated visitor was soaked and was visibly having difficulty clinging to the leaf he was perched  on, so I lifted him very carefully, index-finger one side, thumb the other of his soggy little body and placed him on a much larger leaf.

Whether or not this was where he wanted to be mattered not a jot, rescue he needed, and rescue he got!

Am I alone in this extremely biased behaviour to the other inhabitants of our world, or are there other loonies out there?

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Just How Powerful is TV?

I have just watched a very powerfull episode of my favourite Soap - Emmerdale.  This story-line has been building for quite a while and tonight's shocker was at least half-expected.

One of the characters a gay tetraplegic has been asking his mother and his boy-friend to help him to die.

This after long arguments outbursts of hysteria, rage, sorrow and denial, they finally were persuaded to to.

Tonight he decided, having said his goodbyes the previous day (though only the two closest to him knew), that this was the right time for him to go.

It was brilliantly acted by all three characters and the final scene was almost unbearably moving, I don't cry over screen - large or small - dramas, but this was an exception.

The arguments against his decision had all failed and the mother and the boy-friend even up to the last second were hoping against hope that he would change his mind but finally, loved him enough to be able to carry out his last wish.

The whole story has been very sensatively handled from the beginning and the final decision in the context of the plot was for me, anyway, completely acceptable.

The issue of assisted suicide is a huge one and virtually everyone has an opinion on it.  I have, and the story has not changed in any way how I feel on the subject but it will be interesting to see if the media stifle it or allow it to open up wider discussion.

Sunday, 5 June 2011

Cats' Tails

There  have been many loves in my life, some memorable, some less so.  Some cultural, some intellectual, some human, some sensory.  The most all-consuming passions in my life  have been for music and the other for cats.

As a child of a family always in fairly dire financial straits, there was no way an animal of any sort could have been added to the two-parent four-children equation without some - or possibly all of us - winding up in the 'forties' equivalent of debtor,s prison.

My best friend had a cat which I cuddled whenever there was a chance and when she had three kittens I briefly, hopelessly begged to have one. 

Any passing cat was an instant target for my unwanted affections and the neighbourhood mogs soon grew wary of my sudden lunges in their direction.

Later in life in my twenties my parents were living in West Wickham in Kent and every time I walked up the road to their house the resident mogs would emerge from hiding and come for a friendly 'rub'.  My mother used to call me The Pied Piper since there was always a cat or two trotting behind me when I arrived.

Then for a number of years music took over to the exclusion of most other things and cats were a pale shadow in the background of a busy working and singing life, until after my marriage, living in a flat in Northwood in Middlesex when they once again came to the fore.

Working as a civil servant I was briefly at Perivale Skill Centre where I encountered a pretty little skinny tortoishell, a stray, being fed (illicitly) by one of the cooks.  When a cull of all the numerous feral cats on the premises it was clear that Mitzy as she had been named by the cook, was to be one of their number.

John, who liked cats, but thought a third-floor flat unsuitable for one agreed despite his misgivings to try to adopt her.

To our amazement she settled in with only the most minor hiccups and was soon queen of all she surveyed.
Our neighbours loved her as did we and she very quickly took over a large territory where she spent every night incarcerated in the flat and all day out and about, usually at the top of the tallest tree in the grounds.

The vet who gave her the 'once-over' when we adopted her said she was thin but healthy, had no fleas and appeared to be about five years old.  She had been spayed and had been well cared for at some time.

That was in 1978 and we had her for 15 and 3/4 years,  She was at least 20 years old when we said our final farewells to her.  A truly lovely lady great fun, full of mischief and tricks, clever and (when she felt like it) very loving.  Our first cat.

There were three others to follow, but that's for another post.

Saturday, 4 June 2011

Here be Dragons

This is a picture of a dragon I accidentally downloaded some time ago and since I appear unable to add any more pictures to my collection at present it will have to do.

Now this is not my (that is, a Welsh) dragon, it's just any old dragon.  Since I know their powers my fingers are crossed!

I love dragons - and I'm not just saying that because I'm scared - and no, there are no fairies at the bottom of my garden, the neighbours' cats ate them.

There is something magnificent about these lovely winged beasties who rampage through the books of our childhood and occasionally adulthood.

The only thing I ever learned about St George as a child was that he slew the dragon.  Don't know which dragon but I am hearby apologising on behalf of any English ancestors I might have inadvertantly had for this unkind and nefarious deed.

St David, however, patron saint of the Welsh has no such nasty history.  I have never heard that he went around patting dragons on the head, but neither did he 'slew' them!

Since despite the many and various weather forecasts have all so far failed to produce the promised rain I shall have to water my garden again this evening and I will look long and hard for evidence of passing dragons!

Oh heck, they're coming to lock me up again, see youuuuuuuu..........

Friday, 3 June 2011

Let's see if I've got it.......

Amazing.  Well it may not look very amazing to anyone else but in my intellectually inhibited world this is progress.

The wonderfull David Cloake, otherwise known as Superman has spent some time drilling the concept of adding images to one's blog with me, otherwise known as Padwan or Dumbo.

Now I know at least the most basic techniques, next when I can use a camera and download my own photos I will really have cracked it.

Blogs are definitely more appealing with pictures it's just a question of time before I can add all the other million or so techniques to my meagre talents.

Just a word of warning.  Don't hold your breath!

I Am Not A Man - Guest Post

This is blog post written by the mad curate, who is helping Ray with this blog. She can now put perty pictures into her posts and will nevermore sin by entitling her posts in a capitalised way.

I can testify, with the powers vested in me; my eyes and ears, that I am sat with a woman, not a blokey. She might have a name borrowed by male darts players, but this Ray is a lady Ray.

So let this be an end to the confusion.


Yours blogfully
The Vernacular Curate
(who is a bloke, yes siree)


Thursday, 2 June 2011

MUSIC MUSIC AND MORE MUSIC

Listening to a Bach Cantata on Margaret's blog (Filey Gardener) on this lovely Ascension Day, it struck me for the first time, how very little I've said on the subject of music, when it was once the central theme of my life.

As a twenty something Welsh girl brought up in Birmingham then moving to Kent I never put down roots in any fixed location but my whole life was rooted in music. 

I started paying for singing lessons when I could afford it (at the age of 23 or 24).  Luckily the late Alan Bush
was the president of the Workers Music summer school I used to attend annually and he recommended my teacher who happened to be a very well established tutor and more good luck, local to me in Bromley.

This led to singing with first Kentish Opera, then Morley College Opera and finally, The New Opera Chorus at Sadlers Wells.

Very occasionally we would be paid for what we did, more often we got expenses only, so I worked as a Civil Servant for 23 years.

Having, by then acquired a good nose for what was afoot in the opera world I was able to audition for all manner of little extra enterprises and over the years sang at almost all the well-known London venues and also did quite a lot of recording for various organisations including the BBC.

Best of all was the chance to work with some of the world's greatest conductors and the very best principal singers of the day.

At home, a small bedsit with kitchen, in Bromley, I had what was in those days a top of the range radiogram.
For those who have never heard of this pre-techno piece of equipment, it was a substantial piece of furniture which contained a radio, record deck and large speakers.

This was permanently (whoops the colour has vanished), on what was then called The Third Programme & during a period of some 9 or ten years I listened to all the broadcast Bach Cantatas, many with John Carol Case as the soloist (I sang with him in 1966 at the Tower of London), which added an extra frisson to my enjoyment.

I also collected a vast number of opera recordings, leider recitals, Jazz recordings and other bits and pieces like ballet music etc.

These records added to John's collection and then our combined stash amounted to many hundreds, so when we got married and moved into a flat in Putney we had to 'weed' them and gave away a couple of hundred of the one's we least loved.

John worked for Decca and we added considerably to our vast library of music for a few years until we really had to come to a stop.  We sold hundreds at boot sales for a year or two and gradually reduced the vinyl army to manageable proportions.

When I gave up singing, about 12 months into my marriage I had no intention of ever singing again but, John who was convinced he could sing (he had a good bass/baritone but couldn't sing in tune) auditioned for The London Philharmonic Chorus.  After being told in no uncertain terms by a well-known harpsichordist who was repetiteur for the auditions, that he had 'no ear', he told them that his wife was with him and she 'could' sing!

Horror of horrors, I had no music with me, had not sung for ages and had also had no idea what he was going to do.  This in no way detrerred the Musical Director who said "come and sing some scales and we'll find you some music"

To cut a very long story short, I did so and was invited to join them as a soprano.  Having always sung as a mezzo this was disconcerting but I agreed to give it a whirl.

The next seven years were full of choral music - not something I had done much of before, but a really good experience and even more top conductors and soloists.

This was brought to an abrupt end when I got a severe attack of bronchitis which lasted many weeks and at the end of it my voice had gone.

Twenty-four years later, a month or two after John's death I started trying to sing again, had some lessons and found to my delight that there was still some voice left - admittedly now a contralto - but enough to join St. M's choir and give music a place in my life again.

I don't know what to call this compulsion to sing, it's not a hobby, certainly not a mere interest, more a way of life.

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

A Rose By Any Other Name Would Smell As Sweet

Having spent another morning wrestling with the brass in St. M's I was too tired on my return home to tackle the very necessary dead-heading of my roses.

Four days ago they looked truly fabulous and smelled even more so, today, after heavy rain and very strong winds a couple of days ago they are somewhat battered.

This however, does not in any way detract from the gorgeous, heady overwhelming perfume of most of them.

In the small, overgrown, weed-choked front garden "Rhapsody in Blue" is rioting in all it's slate-blue faded violet glory.  The perfume from the front door-step (the wind is in the right direction today) is superb,

"Deep Secret" and "Josephine Bruce" are at their dark red best, " Zepheryn Drouhin" around the front door Leaves bitten by mildew sends its soft sweet meessage to anyone brave enough to enter the dragon's den.

There are many, many more, in the front and twice as many in the back garden, clashing colours but universally admired favourites such as "Weilschenblau" Blairie No 2, (weird name that), and "Alan Titchmarsh" all sending wafts of sweetness into the still chilly air.

But (yes I know sentances shouldn't begin with but, but, most of mine do) the most exquisite scent of all comes from a lovely dark - almost black - red rose called "Tradescant".

This rose above all others, epitomises for me what the love of roses is all about, it is deeply whorled and intricately quatrefoiled with dozens of small petals and mine is currently growing through a half-dead buddliea.  On the rare occasions when everything works as it should, the dark red against the soft green foliage and long pale mauve 'tails' of the buddliea looks utterly enchanting, and the perfume is enough to send the unwary deeply unconcious.

One day soon I hope to acquire the necessary skill to use my digital camera (don't know how) and take and post some pictures of my lovely lovely roses (don't know how to do that either).

If only I had even half the success with the computer and allied technical gadgets that I have as a gardener I might really feel as though I belonged in this century, instead of being merely a byestander.