Monday, 30 April 2012

Anyone can sing

Singing, if you have the power of speech and can hear is just another exercise.

Not everyone has a beautiful voice, but everyone can sing, and with practise can sing fairly well.

Having just returned from a singing lesson where I tried for the first time ever to sing the Agnus Dei from Mozart's Coronation Mass, I can state with absolute certainty that it is possible for anyone to at least try.

When I was a child I was told I had a 'nice' voice and adults tried to get me to sing to them on every conceivable occasion.  I wouldn't, couldn't do so.  Nerves, embarrassment, fear of criticism made me mute.

Very old friends could occasionally persuade me to sing for their parents or grandparents but only if I could stand behind a door or a curtain.

At school when required to sing in a school concert I would only do so if someone, anyone, else would sing with me, and it wasn't until I was about 18 and had left school that I joined a choir and really began to enjoy singing for its own sake.

Many years later, having had years of tuition from a really excellent teacher, I had Morley College Opera, Kentish Opera, The New Opera Company and others under my belt and was at last aware of having quite a good voice and of feeling proud of it.

After I married I gave up singing, having no time or energy for all the necessary rehearsals, and it wasn't until John who had a good strong bass/baritone decided to audition for the London Philharmonic Chorus that I once again found myself auditioning.  This time for John Alldiss.  He accepted me (as a first soprano) and turned John down.

Despite his hurt feelings John always supported my endeavours and attended all the concerts in which I sang for the next 7 or so years.

After a very severe attack of bronchitis and being unable to speak for several weeks, I found to my horror that when I returned to the 'Phil' who were rehearsing the Bach B Minor Mass, I could not pitch at all and I was making a most horrible noise.  I handed my score in and never went back.

After that I didn't sing for 24 years, and it was after John's death that I first tried a few tentative notes.  I sang bass with a local school choir in their Christmas concert at St. Mary's church and from there took the first steps to singing with the church choir.

Luckily for me, the musical director pointed me in the direction of their voice coach who is also a very good teacher of voice,, and hey presto, singing was again on the agenda.

That was two years ago, and apart from some loss of power, plus the fact that I'm now a contralto there is still a reasonable voice in my crumbling ancient frame.

If I can sing, so can you.

The picture at the top is of the last opera in which I sang.  It was a performance of  "The Bartered Bride" at Sadlers Wells theatre and I am the one on 2nd right at the front.

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Oh to be in England, now that April's there

The above are a selection of the more 'atmospheric' views from my upstairs windows during the past few weeks.  Most have been used in previous posts, but this collection gives a reasonably balanced view of this Spring's offerings.

We have seen full moon through storm clouds as in picture no 1,  storm clouds gathering in 'day;light' in picture no 2, and a false impression of what a lovely sunny day we have just had in picture 3.

I know I may seem obsessed with clouds and weather, (I am, but there are worse obsessions), and it is I know, a very British thing to bang on endlessly about our contrary climate but we are entitled.

Today, after a 24 hour fast and imbibing of vile concoctions with even more vile results (too much information) I had to travel to our local hospital for a CT scan.  It was bucketing down so I took a taxi.
Traffic everywhere blocked solid.  Luckily I had called the taxi really early and got there just in time for my appointment.

Unpleasant procedure duly over I headed for the caffeteria and had a coffee with milk and sugar and a muffin.  (not my food or drink of choice but necessary as the batteries were in need of re-charging) and rang for a taxi to take me home.  Clever girl I thought, to remember to ring before sitting down for coffee.

"About 10 to 15 minutes", they said.  

Frozen to the marrow and very damp despite hooded mac, nearly thirty minutes later he turned up.  "Sorry" he said "it's solid traffic in  all directions, it's the weather"!

Friday, 20 April 2012

Spring is sprung

Woke this morning to loud birdsong, beautiful sunshine, and a totally false sense of security about our dearly beloved British weather.

True, for once, the sun lasted about three hours before strong winds blew up and black clouds scurried in .

Oh well, I thought, not too bad it is April after all.

Twenty minutes ago there was a huge flash of lightning, followed by a massive hail-storm, then in the time it took me to run for my camera, it had turned to torrential rain.

The photograph, meant to show the heaps of hail stones, instead shows a small river running down the road at the front of the house.

Oddly, it is warm.and at present the sun is shining again.

No wonder the Brits are stoics when it comes to weather.  The only thing we haven't had today is snow.  But the day is only half over.

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Words Words Words

Hamlet knew the value of words.  He read and he spoke.  How he spoke. 

The soliloquy, possibly the most frequently quoted (and  misquoted) piece of writing in the history of the English Language says almost all there is to say about Hamlet's state of mind.

So vivid is the picture it draws that no-one can possibly misunderstand his meaning.

What then is the purpose of words?  

My late father who misquoted absolutely everything ever written, when gently corrected, would say.  "You know what I mean, the purpose of words is to communicate, it doesn't matter how you say it as long as you're understood"

While on one level I agree with that, nothing on earth irritates me more than carelessly used words.  Words used to illustrate a point, but so badly chosen that they do the opposite.  Words mispronounced, used  out of context or deliberately chosen (the more letters the better), to make the recipient feel inferior.

I know I've soap-boxed this before, but TV presenters, advertisers, experts on this or that subject who cannot even correctly pronounce the subject of their expertise, drive me to distraction, and if accompanied by an ugly voice or in the case of one weather presenter, a thin, high-pitched nasal whine, make me want to throw things  at the screen.

My pet hate, since it it a subject which attracts me, is the mispronunciation of the word jewellery (joolery), and the misuse of the word "enormity".  Used widely to describe something of giant proportions rather than something heinous.

These are just the tip of an immense iceberg guaranteed to raise my ire without even trying.

Then there are the 'accidental' funnies.

Yesterday I heard "Last winter the RAC rescued a driver every 12 minutes".  Really?  He must have been  the worst driver in the history of the world.

Words.  Mangled, muddled, murdered by the tongues of English speakers everywhere, but nowhere more than in/on TV.

Yet those same words in the hands of a loving caring practitioner of the language can move mountains, melt hearts and inspire love, admiration, affection and every other emotion when used as they were intended.

This is not to say that I deplore the use of texting, twitter, and street slang, but there  is a place for everything .and just a little attention to detail in our everyday verbal dealings with other people could just possibly make a space for the beautiful English language  to flourish again.

Friday, 13 April 2012

SO.......Not an Ostrich then.

This has been a rather odd week.  Not much church.  Not much social contact.  Quite a lot of rather tiring catching up on chores, and , worst of all, scouring the limited resources of our town for lampshades to add a touch of style to my newly decorated bedroom.

Since I don't drive, much of this has been on foot (or rather - feet).  Mine.  And very sore and tired they are too. and, no, I have no lampshades still.

So far I've resisted the call of my bottle of Grants, and settled for much strong coffee, usually having capsized into a chair in front of the TV.

Next Tuesday my new bed will be delivered and the two old ones, together with seven sacks of bed-linen etc will be carted off by The Vineyard who are always happy to receive household goods in reasonable condition.

The week after that I have a rather unpleasant appointment at Stoke Mandeville Hospital to look forward to, so all in all, a fairly stressful time.

The one constant in my life winter or summer, rain or shine, is the ever present birdwatch scheme, an offshoot of which was mentioned in my last slightly aggrieved post.

It is entirely possible that I am pointing the finger of blame for my bespattered window in the wrong direction but, rather than the ostrich which was my joking reference to the generous size of the 'donation', I believe the actual perpetrator may have been a heron.

A huge shadow fell across my TV screen yesterday evening and I looked up just in time to see a massive wing-span flap past.  Rushing to the window I saw the grey heron land on a roof-top the other side of the road and was just able to get the rather poor shot above before he swooped down into a back garden and vanished.  Someone's fish pond will doubtless record his visit with the absence of a fish or two.

Considering that this is really quite an urban area we really do get more than our share of relatively 'shy' birds not common to gardens.

There is it would seem always something to gratefull for in even the least interesting of times.

Thursday, 12 April 2012


Had just put my Ipad down in disgust at its unwillingness to punctuate, headed for kitchen for third (but who's counting?) cup of coffee and saw that as well as the rain running down the kitchen window, there was also a large, very large, deposit from some low-flying ostrich daubed down said window.
Deep joy.  My cup runneth over.

warning. this is a rant

my much esteemed friend Jean of Tregear Vean, has posted on the subject of cold calling. this is a subject dear to my heart. Or not, depending on how you look at it. like Jean, nothing is guaranteed to raise my hackles whatever they are, than the thick skinned determination of some robber baron to fleece me of my hard earned can. jean asks does anyone ever respond to cold calling. I most certainly do, big time. if anyone wants to hear a stream of the rudest words in the Uk vocabulary, just ring me during the evening preferably when I,m watching Emmerdale, and try to sell me something I don,t want, have never asked for, and would not buy from a cold caller under torture. has anyone ever heard of reverse psychology? I have written many times on the subject of charities, and, again like Jean, give quite a high percentage of my income on a regular basis. I do not respond well to duress. sorry about the poor layout and lack of punctuation. this was posted on my IPad and it doesn't,t appear to have a full keyboard. or, itn could be me.

Saturday, 7 April 2012

Three down - One to go

This evening was the third of our Easter services.

A huge contrast to the heart-wrenching Maundy Thursday and sombre Solemn Liturgy of Good Friday, this evening we had the lovely return to light, Holy Baptism and Confirmation and flowers everywhere.

All three services were led by our excellent Bishop Alan who also sang the Exculat
can't spell it, extremely well.

It has been a very emotional three days.  Extremely exhausting, vocally a bit of a marathon, but truly rewarding and worth all the hard work.

Somehow tomorrow's Easter Day service seems like a bit of an anti-climax since all the most interesting music has been sung, sermons preached and symbolic ritual performed.

It is two years since I was baptised and confirmed.  It seems far longer than that and the thought of an 'ordinary' secular Easter now seems unthinkable to me.

Travelling back and forth seemingly every few hours to St. Mary's by taxi, passing people enjoying their way of celebrating their bank-holiday seems like looking at the world through the wrong end of a telescope.  I can no longer see Easter in that light.

As I scurried down the little narrow cobbled street from the Church in the dark this evening toward the well-lit square, with its taxi-ranks awaiting their alcohol-fuelled passengers fresh from an evening's revelry it suddenly felt as though I was an inhabitant of another planet.

Odd.  Interesting.  Better than i would ever have thought.

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Learning (late in life) to fight back

No this is not another tedious post about birds, it's a tedious post about something else.

I have just opened today's post which included the annual renewal details of my house buildings and contents insurances.

They are both with the same company but are separate contracts.

Even a year ago, I'd have run an uncomprehending eye over them groaned at the huge increase of one and the slightly less huge increase of the other.

This year for some reason, I have found my feet and am beginning to flex the toes.

Where previously I'd have filed them and written the projected increase in my monthly accounts file and wished with all my heart that I still had John quietly getting on with all the financial paperwork, today I looked, thought, compared, and rang the number of the complaints dept.

Having told my story to three sets of people, and also added that I was going to cancel the contents policy, since I have never, and hope never to claim on it, I was quickly offered a sizeable reduction,  When I still hesitated I was passed to yet another bod who promptly offered a further reduction, reducing the new payment to a mere £2.00 per month more than last year.

Hardly able to restrain my sense of triumph, I quickly added that I was thinking of doing the same with the building policy.  "Oh I can look at that for you now," I was told, and five minutes later, the proposed £6.00 increase per month had become £3,50.

I took the  name  and details of the chap I was talking to, asked for confirmation in writing, thanked him and hung up.              And......cheered.

I know it's not nice to crow, but Caw!

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

A Bird of a Different Feather

This morning before leaving for the parish office, I thought since it was very cold I'd throw out a handful of shredded suet as an extra for the birds clustered on the paved  area  covered in birdseed.

By the time I'd opened the door they had flown up in a wild panic and the garden was empty.

I threw the suet out anyway, locked up and had a last look out of the back door before leaving.

To my surprise, I saw a great spotted woodpecker on the peanuts and thought, "surely that can't have caused the sudden panic.  Looking for another explanation I saw a brilliant flash of yellow and red and on the buddleia
nearest the door was a green woodpecker, the first I've ever seen close to, and the very first ever in my garden.

Beautiful though he was, I couldn't see why he should be a source of fear, even if he was unfamiliar.  Then, at last, my gaze fell on the real culprit.  

Drinking from the birds' water bowl was Hercules, the red terror.  Decimator of large numbers of local feathered inhabitants.

I had photographed him a month ago on a misty early March morning when I had just poured a kettle of boiling water on the ice in the bird-bath.  

Normally I'd have chased him out before he could grab a feathered ' breakfast to go', but felt sorry for him so let him drink first, photographed him, then chased him out.

As a cat, not a predator, he is a large and beautiful animal, but I love my birds and prefer not to fatten them up to provide snacks for the furry terror.

What surprised me this morning was that all the other birds had fled, but the woodpeckers remained, apparently unperturbed.  Brave, or stupid?

Sunday, 1 April 2012

Three (hundred) Cheers!!

Wonder of wonders, the dreaded blogger Bermuda Triangle has regurgitated my dashboard.

The new system appears to be, for anyone who hasn't already sorted it, to press "new post" and at the end of the line where your current post is listed click on the little orange label with a picture of (who knows what on it.  It appears to be a pencil or a pen-nib).  With a bit of luck, and a favouring wind, this will produce your dashboard.

If this one doesn't work, I have no further suggestions.

A million thanks to the wonderful Kathy at "Perpetua", for her kindness and patience with me and her stirling efforts to 'sort' me.

If I knew how, I would post a huge grin.

Had a wonderful Palm Sunday service this morning,  Paid the excellent decorator who has given me a new bedroom, and am enjoying the tranquillity of a clean house.

The sun is shining despite the earlier frost, and all's right with the (well, my) world.

Happy Palm Sunday.