A Day Not Like Any Other
I had what passes in my case for a terrific voice lesson.
AND THE REMOVAL BLOKES GOT IT ALL IN.
These two large dazzling items totally outshine the rest which is a good thing because it was very nearly a disaster of a day.
. . . Starting with not getting to bed early enough last night, partly because I really needed to sing and one song leads to another. . . . Staggered out of bed this morning making hopeless croaking noises like an installation of rusty hinges* and started lubricating with caffeine. Took the poor hellterror for the fastest sprint she was capable of** and locked her up again with an extra kong to comfort her in our absence.***
I took hellhounds-of-the-touchy-digestion for a minimal get-it-over-with scamper around the churchyard. Darkness refused to comply with the purpose of this exercise. Arrrgh.
Hellhounds and I were on the road with twenty-five minutes to spare: five minutes to bolt up to Third House and ask Atlas to clear out drawers and move ill-placed piles of [book] boxes in anticipation of removal-men arrival this afternoon and twenty minutes for hurtling at the far end before my lesson.
Atlas wasn’t there.
I could feel my throat closing.
Well, nothing I could do about it; I couldn’t even ask Peter if he knew anything, since, in the first place, he wouldn’t, because he’s been in Gloucestershire all weekend, and in the second place because he was on a train somewhere and I guarantee his phone had no signal, because that’s the way it goes.
So we thundered on to our next scheduled activity.
Frelling Mauncester was backed up from halfway up the hill into town. Stop go (but not very far) stop go stop go stop go stop go stopgostopgostop. Chiefly stop. It was like this all the way through town.
I could feel my throat closing harder.
We arrived at Nadia’s with THREE MINUTES to spare. I took hellhounds for a three minute scuttle and . . . Darkness continued to fail to comply. ARRRGH.
I was pretty nearly barking by the time I burst through Nadia’s door. . . She did make me do some breathing and loosening up exercises before I sang anything, but my throat said, Ooooh! We’re at Nadia’s! We like it here! —And promptly warmed up a dream.†
WE GOT THROUGH THREE SONGS. THREE. IT’S A RECORD. We usually bog down on the first one because I’m doing so many things wrong, not that Nadia would put it that way, but I would. We may occasionally galumph through bits of more than one—indeed even three—but only because I have a specific technical question†† or they’re folk songs I’m singing at home and want a little general input—or scraping back from the brink. But THREE REAL SONGS? It doesn’t happen. And furthermore the third—Vedrai carino from Don Giovanni—I’d only brought because I wanted to go over the frelling Italian before I started really working on it. We’d had a stab††† at it a while ago and it got set aside, but it’s been on my mind and since I now more or less suddenly have more voice it’s one of the ones I snatched back from oblivion.
Oh, go on, let’s just sing it, said Nadia. So I did. Eeeeep. And she made one or two painless comments and told me to go home and work on it.
Then Un moto de gioja and we spent some time on that one. Here’s an example of why I adore Nadia. There’s a place in the middle of Un moto where you hold a note for a very long time and then come off it again with a wordless twiddle before you start the next verse. I hadn’t even registered that you’re supposed to sing the twiddle—when I started work on this song Nadia had told me to hold the note only as long as was comfortable, but to keep time and come in correctly on the new ‘un moto’. Then I ACCIDENTALLY heard Danielle de Niese singing it and she sings the twiddle. Oh. It ties the two halves together better, the twiddle. I can’t sing it up to proper twiddle speed at the end of a long note—which is the part I can do—and as I hurl myself into the next verse. So I sing it at half speed. Nadia said gravely, if you were preparing this for public performance I think I would take issue with your singing it so slowly, but for your purposes at present it works very well. —She takes you seriously. Even when you’re screwing up Do Re Mi or tackling something like someone with a flint axe trying to produce a knock-off of the Sphinx.
Finally we assailed the nightclub proprietress. This is such a fabulous song. There are no fully satisfactory performances of it on YouTube—that I can find anyway—but here’s the poem: http://wonderingminstrels.blogspot.co.uk/2006/05/song-of-nightclub-proprietress-john.html ‡
It needs Lotte Lenya—who may have died before Dring composed it, in which case I excuse her for having failed to record it—or someone else who can put over age and despair. I don’t say you have to be old (despair optional) because in fairness I would then have to give up singing Voi che sapete, say, which is sung by a teenage boy, or Vedrai carino, which is sung by a bouncy village maiden (to her thick plank of a fiancé). But you have to put old and hagged over. I have a chance of this, with lived experience on my side. But the thing that is Very Exciting is that I can hear me beginning to sound like a mezzo: not just the range‡‡ but the resonance. And this is a very resonant song.
. . . I then took hellhounds for another hustle and FINALLY. A CERTAIN PARTY EXCRETED. We then belted back to Third House and arrived with three minutes to spare . . . and the removal blokes were already there. NEVER MIND. I WASN’T LATE. I let them in, pointed out all the Large Objects that had to go, apologised for lack of pre-clearance . . . and bolted back to the cottage to feed hellcritters‡‡‡ and take the hellterror for another mini-hurtle while hellhounds contemplated their bowls with disfavour. I was on my way out the door to flee back to Third House when the phone rang and it was Removal Men saying they were ready. . . .
I looked at their lorry before they shut the gate and my heart plummeted. There was no way they were going to get that lot in. I had the hellhounds with me again—no one had got any kind of a real hurtle thus far today—and we took off across some countryside§ behind the storage warehouse while Valiant Removal Men wrestled with the standard three dimensions of the space-time continuum and when we returned . . .
THEY HAD GOT IT ALL IN.§§
Oh, and did I mention that tonight was the first night of the Alpha course—?
* * *
* On this day that the Turner Prize is announced, this seems like a perfectly valid idea
** All right, the fastest sprint I was capable of
*** I’m sure, if asked, she would prefer the kong
† Please remember, when I say silly things like this that IT’S ALL RELATIVE. I have made a giant leap forward in the last few weeks but it’s still an 11-hand Shetland pony qualifying for prelim at the county show against the odds, not the branded warmblood insured for a gazillion pounds qualifying for the Olympics, okay?
†† Huh, whuh, um, bleaugh?
††† Way too vivid a metaphor, stab. Or maybe I’m just hallucinating KES.
‡ Baby ’pollies is not a mystery: they’re little bottles of a kind of mineral water popular at the time.
‡‡ I’m still putting in petitions to get my high C back. Lots of mezzos have high Cs.
‡‡‡ ‘Feed’ used loosely, which is to say the hellterror eats and the hellhounds do not.
§ And I managed to cut myself on some barbed wire. Frell. There was a normal gate to get in, and then at the other end one of those horrible temporary gate things that anyone who has spent any time wandering over English agricultural landscape will know to their detriment: several strands of barbed wire stretched between two light posts and held apart horizontally by being nailed to a series of short loose lathes. This contraption is usually held at either end by a loop at ground level where you stick the bottom of your post and then at the top by another loop which you have to shove it under, around the post of the real fence it’s being attached to. These things are a menace anyway, and if you lose your hold they collapse on the ground in a grisly tangle of barbed wire. But in this case . . . the frelling loops were made of barbed wire. WHY? Anyone trying either to open or close the evil thing is going to have to handle the loops. I managed to nick a finger and it bled and bled and bled and bled and bled and bled and bled and bled and bled and it was very boring and there are probably a whole series of predators out there tonight hopefully following my blood spoor. Sorry guys.
§§ Of course I still have ninety-six million books to do something with—I don’t mean Peter’s and my backlist, that’s already in its own storage unit—and a few odds and ends. Maybe a few more than a few.
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