I’ve neglected you, but you don’t mind do you? Or perhaps you do, which is why you suddenly disappeared a week ago, walking off in a huff out of the blogging ether. Thankfully, this was only because I had to renew my DNS fee, a thing I discovered in mild panic when chatting with a Happiness Engineer (oh the wonderful, there-at-a-moment’s-notice HE’s.) However put out you are, dearest blog, you’re my dependable little friend; always there for a catch up, even if I don’t drop in for simply ages and ages.
So many busy things have been happening. I’m approaching the last bit of wallpaper that needs scraping off the lounge walls. For two months the lounge has resembled the sort of room you’d find in one of those telly cleaning programmes where the occupants appear to be living in a nuclear fallout zone. Not that I’ve seen those kinds of programmes for the past two months, because I haven’t watched TV for two whole months! Yes, our TV had to have every snarled up power lead unplugged and then TV and stand were banished to the back room, unable to be used since the Sky lead and bog standard aerial are in the lounge. Two months ago Son No.3 wandered into the lounge with his evening snack, noticed the chairs were all out of whack, plonked himself down on one and stared off into the general direction of the TV, to find a gaping TV-less hole. The look of gobsmacked surprise on his face surpassed anything you could gawp at on your TV. ‘Where’s the TV?’ he managed to blurt out. He couldn’t have been more shocked if he’d come home from work to find his parents had absconded. ‘Sorry, it’s gone until I get the lounge sorted out,’ I replied. Since then he can be found morosely chomping on his favourite post-dinner evening snacks, forlornly gazing at iPlayer on his laptop (cornettos, Sainsbury choc chip cookies, babybel cheeses, apples – these are all consumed steadily, one after the other.)
But the eye opener, the absolute revelation (comparable to Paul’s on the road to Damascus) is that I haven’t missed the telly one bit, and neither has the husband. Of course, this will have something to do with the internet and all its browsing loveliness (new suites for the lounge, knitting blogs etc) but a laptop certainly doesn’t compare to your average HD flat screen telly, and yet I haven’t missed anything about the TV talking heads at all.
And I haven’t been doing much laptop gazing either. For I have been doing important community spirit type things, like taking part in the local primary school’s Last night of the Proms concert. This was due to my limited role as children’s choir helper, and being a member of the newly created school adult choir. Our leader had dreamed up the idea for this overly ambitious concert several months ago and had whispered in my ear, at the first rehearsal, that would I sing the solo bits on The Lord is my Shepherd from The Vicar of Dibley. I whispered back ‘yes’ immediately, since the concert had been 5 months away, so what did I care at that actual moment in time? In the ensuing weeks I tended to think of The Solo as something that wouldn’t actually happen; that it was all a figment of my overwrought imagination, until we started rehearsing the song and I was instructed to begin with my solo bit. Due to a strange blocking out of The Solo, I hadn’t even looked at the sheet music and so launched into the shakiest, breathiest, weirdest solo bit you ever heard. The Solo bits improved over time and I became less fearful of singing alone in the middle of a bunch of choristers, but still I barely practiced at home, preferring to believe that The Solo was happening in some sort of alternate universe and would be sung by somebody who looked like me but wasn’t actually me.
The day of the concert came and mid-morning it suddenly dawned on me that I would have to sing The Solo to an audience of roughly 250 people. On previously informing Son No.1 that I was going to be singing in the school concert he got all pretend excited and said you might be another Susan Boyle and become a star on the local church circuit (the idea of there being a ‘church circuit’ tickled us pink.) The comparison with Susan Boyle did not instil confidence. I LOVED Susan Boyle at the peak of her BGT fame, but did I want to be thought of as a frumpy, grey haired, pre-makeover Ms Boyle? Banishing such a vision, and with panic rising, I found some vocal exercises on YouTube and stood in the kitchen, vibrating my lips together whilst humming and turning my head from side to side – this exercise took some time to master; particularly the vibrating lips bit which was just plain stupid. Desperately hoping the neighbours weren’t listening, I moved on to ‘slight coughs,’ followed by rapid arpeggios that rose up the scale, followed by the bending and straightening of the knees.
When The Solo came around, I discovered I had to stand forward of the rest of the choir and sing into a standing mic that was connected to a proper sound system. And what a sound system it was. At a rapid rehearsal 30 minutes before the concert, I discovered that the mic made things sort of effortless. What a wonderful sensation it was to warble into this mic and find that your voice magnified to operatic proportions and bounced off the walls. My tiny rehearsal weirdly settled most of the nerves (knowing that the mic would take up most of the slack) and The Solo went off without a hitch, although Son No.3 (playing guitar in the concert due to pressure from his mother) did point out that there was a definite crack in the voice midway through, due to nerves. But what care I? I sang a solo in front of an audience, for the first time in years, and survived the strange out of body experience. The downside was seeing myself doing it at the next rehearsal, as our leader’s son had filmed the concert on his phone. Any pluses, like the fact I’d managed to sing and not just emit a terrified squeak, were immediately negated by watching the overweight, grey haired, fugly (not a typo) vision on screen. Still, the way to overcome that is to count your blessings.
And the concert was a surprisingly enjoyable experience, a thing I hadn’t counted on, not being a fan of amateur productions or having much community spirit. There was much flag waving and plenty of Jerusalem and Land of Hope and Glory, which nearly brought a tear to my eyes. Afterwards, everyone was on a high and my Facebook feed was littered with how wonderful and life affirming it had all been.
The next community thing I did was lead the school’s gala procession. I didn’t know I was going to lead it until I arrived at the meeting place, which struck me as ridiculous, considering the tiny contribution I make to the school’s life. I felt like a total imposter. ‘They obviously can’t get the staff,’ was my one thought as I walked, at a snail’s pace, down to the local castle in weather that was so hot I felt I’d melt away into a puddle, just like the W W of the W. I carried the school’s all- purpose banner, with help from the lady who organises the gala every year, and for whom it’s an obsession (our theme was Peter Pan and she made all the props – ‘bless her,’ as she would say.) But the highlight for me was realising that a bloke walking directly in front of me, with a local kids’ drama group, had been a member of a brilliant singing group on our last P&O mini-cruise to Belgium. We’d stood in the ship’s lift with this four man group, one evening on our way up to dinner, and the husband got chatting (like he always does) and we found out that one of them lived in our town, and we didn’t quite believe him – but there he was, walking in front of me at the gala!
I left, as soon as we got to the castle, due to the intense heat and I had other things to do. The getting away proved very difficult, as I was badgered into staying to hear the result, but I felt too withered and knackered. The next day I was told we’d won (like we did the past two years.) I would have said ‘they’ won, but my community-minded friends always refer to everything as ‘we.’ As a side note, ‘they’ tried to force the husband into walking with the procession when he came to take photos of me in my fairy outfit (yes, I was a fairy, but it’s best not to go there) at the meeting place. The husband said ‘No,’ six times (I counted) in a firm and manly manner. If only I could say ‘No’ to things with that degree of unabashed certainty, thought I.
Community things and choir things are not the only things I’ve been doing. I’ve been helping to write cover letters and job applications. The latest job application requested that you DO NOT send us a bog standard CV and oh so dreary cover letter, but make your application stand out, you dimwits!!! So, that’s what they got, a cover letter which will fully test just what they meant by ‘not dreary.’
And the other thing I’ve been doing is reading. Oh the joy of reading. I at last got my reading mojo back. In the past two months I’ve read:
Lewis Carroll; The Man and his Circle
In the Shadow of the Dreamchild
Lewis Carroll A Biography
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland
Through the Looking Glass
The Essex Serpent
After me comes The Flood
You will see an obsessive Lewis Carroll element here, or the Rev. Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, or ‘my dearest Charlie,’ as his mother called him – but more of that in future posts. You will also note an obsession with Victoriana – I was born in the wrong era – well, only if I’d been born into the upper middle classes where they had things like water closets (loos) and plenty of servants.
Yes, reading words that are written on bits of paper is here to stay. My laptop will never replace the loveliness of turning a page or breathing in the woody perfume of the paper.
And the last thing I’ve been doing is watching the gloriously hang dog, slightly haggard and strangely Victorian looking Will Self on YouTube, who at 17 was addled with drugs, alcohol and cigarettes, a streptococcus infection eating part of his face and worked as a council road sweeper. The man is a walking dictionary. If you want to widen your vocabulary (and you do don’t you) then watch the strangely hypnotic Will in full flow, the unheard of before words falling from his lips like nuggets of oral gold. Words I now know the actual meaning of, because Will is now my free YouTube tutor. Every time he emits a word that sounds decidedly foreign, I pause my video, look it up via Google then press play, feeling so much cleverer. Words like:
The remarkable thing (Will would probably never lower himself by ever using the word ‘thing’) is that Will never draws breath. He never has to pause and say ‘oh what’s the word I’m looking for?’ He simply knows every single word out there. I wonder if he spends his evenings going through Roget’s Thesaurus? Will Self is now Professor of Contemporary Thought (what a wonderful job title that is) at the University of Brunel.
Well, that’s it, it’s time for me to leave, expeditiously.