::POLITICAL RANT ALERT::
I know. I don’t do politics. Well. . . .
I am, I admit, frequently appallingly clueless about the realities of . . . reality. I know I’m a wet bleeding-heart knee-jerk la-di-dah liberal but I forget how far from the mainstream that sometimes takes me. Take gay marriage.
I do know there are still rabid homophobic enclaves out there but that’s what I expect them to be . . . enclaves.* In the modern First World at least I expect anyone my age and younger to behave in a polite and tolerant way; if they have private caveats about certain intrinsically harmless and productive subgroups of society they keep this to themselves. That government tends to be butt-heavy with old fogies is one of those sad facts of reality, but I’m rapidly approaching old-fogey status myself so the obvious stuff should be getting dealt with as there are more old fogies like me in Parliament—or Congress, or the Orwellian farmyard, or what-have-you. So we finally got civil partnerships here in the UK for gays a few years ago—so they can have insurance and inheritance and hospital-visiting rights and so on just like hets, well duh—can gay marriage be far behind?
I don’t keep track of this kind of controversy—I know, bad me—because it makes me too crazy. I don’t keep track of all the anti-women stuff still relentlessly going on out there** either, for the same reason. It makes me feel too small and too helpless and too ANGRY: human rights are human rights are human rights. There’s nothing to discuss.*** So I’ll just go on writing my stories about Girls Who Do Things—and keep my head (mostly) down out here in rough and ratbagging reality.
While I was as appalled as everyone else—everyone on the wet-liberal side anyway—about the C of E blocking women bishops again, there was enough general outrage that the church synod what-you-call-it managed to cram a fresh vote through before time, and there’s at least been progress, although there’s a bit too much havering about what they’re doing to keep the paralytic-tradition fogies from mutinying again. But I remember—as a separation-of-church-and-state American—being fascinated by the suggestion that if the C of E didn’t get its act together promptly about women bishops Parliament would make them.
So. Gay marriage. It’s legal in the UK. Finally. But the C of E is saying no, no, a thousand times no, I’d rather diiiiiie than say yes. WHAT? You can’t just look for a sympathetic priest—even wet liberals like me will acknowledge that tolerance tends to be a continuum—it’s illegal for a C of E vicar to perform a gay marriage? This is the Church. Of. England. That’s how it works over here. And Parliament isn’t going to say, ‘Do it and shut up’? WHAT?
And—and this was my personal snapping point—the frelling Archbishop of Canterbury is saying gay marriage would be ‘catastrophic’ for Christians in other parts of the world because it would leave them vulnerable to violence by anti-gay mob rule? http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-26894133 WHAT? Where are you drawing the line, mate? Or what line or you drawing? Being a Christian at all in certain parts of the world is still dangerous. The tradition of violence and martyrdom goes back to the beginning—um, the crucifixion, um?—and ‘don’t ask don’t tell’ has always been a crummy policy. If the early Christians hadn’t been such arrogant little twerps, insisting on going around shooting their mouths off about Jesus being the Offspring of God, they might have believed what they liked in the privacy of their own homes, as long as they didn’t do it on the street and frighten the horses or piss off the local tyrant. Not to mention that appeasement of bullies and murderers doesn’t have a great track record for success.† I hope our Most Reverend Justin is being quoted badly out of context.
It was Aloysius who pointed out to me, in a calm, holy way, that gay marriage is very, very controversial in the C of E—and at the moment the traditionalists are winning.†† And I’m a card-carrying, fee-paying member of this organisation? Aloysius—who admits to being frustrated by the ban himself—says that we’re supposed to pray for change and love those who disagree with us.
ARRRRRRRRRGH. Personally I’d rather have a flaming sword.
* * *
^ The Samaritans question you-as-applicant pretty closely about your attitude toward homosexuality but I half-thought they were joking. In my wet-liberal way I can’t imagine wanting to do something like take shifts on a people-in-emotional-extremis phone line and not sympathise with gays who do have more of a struggle with society and expectations and okay and not-okay than hets do. Not wholly unlike, to my eye, women have more of a struggle with society etc than men do, or non-white people than white people do. Etc. Humanity = ratbag. Sigh.
** http://everydaysexism.com/ Everyone know this one? Read it and weep. I don’t read it very often, because of the weeping thing, and the blood-pressure headaches, and the wondering whether anything ever does get better, or whether it just goes round in endless circles. The early Christian church had women in positions of power, for example, but it didn’t last. Here’s a bit more about Laura Bates, Everyday Sexism’s founder: http://www.independent.co.uk/biography/laura-bates
She’s on Twitter too: @EverydaySexism
Go for it. I’m glad someone has the grit.
*** Anyone thinking of writing a counter-diatribe on the forum, please take note. Also, it’s my blog.
† I want to know why these people think that the presence of Christians is going to turn them homosexual?^ Is it something we put in the water? There’s a word that’s struggling to surface in my aging and forgetful mind—wait for it—EDUCATION. You know you can educate people about lots of things. Like that the existence and maintenance of heterosexuality in the Christian church is actually rather common.
^ Which is of course the worst thing that could possibly happen to you. Worse than gangrene! Worse than Sarah Palin for president!
†† Scripture! Yes, I know! But we don’t cut people’s hands off for stealing any more, or stone people to death for adultery! And if you’re asking me, which you probably aren’t, as well as welcoming gay marriage, there are a lot of abused kids out there who are let off honouring their fathers and mothers!
I was supposed to be going to a concert tonight. Well, I was supposed to be going to a concert tomorrow night, only I kept forgetting, because Saturday night is Monk Night* and that there might be something else going on doesn’t register unless you nag me relentlessly**. So by the time I remembered—chiefly because I was going to be seeing the friend who was singing in it and wanted me to come—it had sold out. Never mind, she said, come to the dress rehearsal. Which I would probably have enjoyed more anyway because it’s more of the nuts and bolts of putting on a performance***.
It has not been a brilliant day. I went with Peter when he saw his GP this morning, and the frelling doctor was forty five minutes late without explanation or apology.† Sound of Robin scraping herself off the walls since Peter likes his doctor and I don’t want to disturb this desirable situation by, for example, putting said doctor through the clinic paper shredder.†† Then Peter and I had our usual Friday foray to the farmers’ market, to which I bring the hellhounds so they were okay, but I got back to the cottage finally and very late to an EXTREMELY CRANKY HELLTERROR who had to be soothed by . . . well, give her a dog biscuit and she’s your slave for life, or at least till the next dog biscuit, but I figured I owed her a good walk.†††
Meanwhile I’d had a text from Niall reminding me that the much-neglected-by-me Friday handbells were occurring tonight at 5:30 as usual . . . I’d already texted him back that I was coming, after which I was going to have to rip off to the concert. Good thing I don’t write the blog every night any more, I thought, harnessing up hellhounds for their pre-handbell sprint.
. . . And Darkness has the geysers again. WAAAAAAAAAAAH. ‡
So I stayed home.
And I thought, oh well, I might as well write a blog post. Sigh.
* * *
* Which is a ratbag on your social life, if any. But the Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament—which I think I’ve told you before?, is that you stare at the wafers they’re going to use at Mass on Sunday morning, which are suspended in some manner within this golden starburst thing I’m told is called a monstrance^ —is kind of booked to happen Saturday night. Clearly weeks need an eighth day, so you can get your serious acting-out post-work-week over with, or possibly just go to a concert, on that day^^ between Friday and Saturday and be sufficiently clean, upright and awake^^^ for wafer-contemplation on Saturday night.
^ Which I feel is an unfortunate derivation. Like calling angels vampires because one of the origins+ of ‘vampire’ may refer to spirits of the air. And why is a rosary either a rose garden or a loop of prayer beads? I know—garland. But confusing.
+ disputed, but I think they’re all disputed
^^ Which I feel should be called Loki-day or Misrule-day except the world would probably end. So maybe we could call it Dead Sheep day or Dwarf Conifer day.
^^^ I will not say no one has ever fallen asleep during the Exposition. Unless you fall off your chair+ it’s not a big deal in the congregation—all one or two or three of us—because we’re sitting in the dark till the service begins. The black-garbed chappies up on the dais . . . yeah. They’re kinda visible if they start to nod.++ But the Benedictine order is heavily into physical, three-dimensional this-world work, and my monks have probably been rescuing kittens from the tops of two-hundred-foot leylandii cypresses and doing the steel-driving man thing alongside soulless steam drills+++ all day and are tired.
+ NO. I HAVEN’T. THANKS FOR ASKING.
++ Alfrick never falls asleep. He’s my hero.
+++ And winning, of course. Our railroads need a few miracles.
** And even then nothing is guaranteed except that I’ll probably bite your head off.
*** I’m singing again at St Margaret’s on Sunday—AAAAAAAUGH—the nice young man who is leading this week dutifully sent the playlist last night with the video links—AAAAAAAAUGH. I’d far rather be learning The sun whose rays are all ablaze^ or I Want to Be a Prima Donna^^
^ The Mikado. You’d’ve remembered in a minute.
^^ On the spectacular perversity of bodies: my singing practise at home is pretty . . . erratic, both because I’m an erratic kind of person (!) but also because I have an erratic kind of voice, which I gather is pretty standard, it’s just if you’re good and/or professional you learn workarounds. I will warm up a bit, sing a folk song, warm up a bit more, sing another folk song, lie on the floor and do a few breathing exercises, sing another folk song or an old gospel thumper, sing something I’m actually working on to bring to Nadia . . . do a few more warm ups. What I sing and how I sing it is entirely based on the noise I’m making: on a good-noise day I’ll do a lot more than on a bad-and-I-can’t-seem-to-make-it-better-noise day. Most days are in between: if I keep doing warm-ups and vowelly exercises and approaching the intractable from different angles I will at least improve. Probably. I also try not to get too hung up on what specific notes I’m singing—this is on Nadia’s advice—find a range my voice is happy in and sing there.
But by the end of a good practise I’m singing a high B as part of an exercise pattern without any particular effort—my much-desired-for-silly-reasons high C is clearly there I just haven’t quite had the courage to have a stab at it—somebody tell me why, as soon as I’m trying to sing a song, I can’t even hit a frelling G reliably. Because my blasted throat closes up and goes no no no no no! Eeep eeep eeep eeep eeeep!+ I tried to be clever about this the other day, and snaked out a few bars of Prima Donna where you’ve got a G-to-G octave leap, because octave leaps are a gift they’re so nice and obvious, and I use them in exercises all the time. But my voice wasn’t having any of it. I know what you’re trying to do, it said, and went squeaky. ARRRRRRRGH.
Tonight’s concert included a professional soloist singing something that I—theoretically—sing, and I might have found this educational. I might also have come home and burnt my music books, so maybe it’s just as well I didn’t go.
+ What’s even more irritating is when I’m sharp rather than flat. Usually it’s flat—which is losing your nerve at a big fence so your horse raps it with his knees and brings a pole down. Sharp is jumping eight feet over a three-foot fence. But if I give up and sing along with the piano . . . okay, the note’s true enough but it’s got a frelling edge on it you could slice bread with. ARRRRRRRRGH.
† I GOT A LOT OF KNITTING DONE. It’s been a good week for knitting. I got a lot of knitting done at St Margaret’s AGM equivalent earlier in the week too. Gah. Groups of PEOPLE. DISCUSSING things. Nooooooooo. I’m a Street Pastor! I’m going to be a Samaritan! My social conscience is FULLY BOOKED UP! I don’t have to do church-AGM-related things too!
†† No jury would convict me. My barrister or whoever would be sure to load the jury with people who have WASTED HOURS OF THEIR LIVES IN DOCTORS’ WAITING ROOMS.
††† She’s crated if she’s left alone, so if she’s been locked up longer than she thinks she should be she tends to emerge like the Blue Angels/Red Arrows at an air show. WHEEEEEEEEEEEE.
‡ What frelling happens in March? We’ve had a really bad March, that is, the hellhounds have, and I have because I’m responsible. The hellterror, I am delighted to say, seems to be maintaining intestinal integrity this year. I thought we were coming through it. . . . But it all went horribly wrong in March last year . . . what happens in March?
I’ve been accepted for training by the Samaritans. http://www.samaritans.org/
It’s a serious commitment in both time and energy: the first training module is ten half-days in six weeks and begins in about a fortnight. Then they start putting you to work. You’re expected to rack up fifty-two duty shifts in a year—so one a week: if you want to take a holiday, you have to squeeze a few more shifts in elsewhere. There’s a second training module later in the year, and a continuing-training requirement of (I think) two half-days a year for as long as you’re a volunteer.
My initial interview process was made just a trifle more interesting by nine days without a car, and as a result I got in under the wire last Friday. I received the email saying ‘you’re in, clear your diary’ on Saturday.
And here’s the official notification: I’m cutting back drastically on the blog. No, really. As of tonight it will NO LONGER BE DAILY. I’m not sure what I’m cutting back to: two days a week, maybe, plus or including KES.*
This has been coming for a while. I know I keep saying I’m cutting back, and then I don’t. There’s an ‘all change’ blog from a year ago January—and in fact I have cut back. But not enough. God** and commuting and three hellcritters take a lot of time.***
But that the blog as I have been insanely pursuing it is no longer tenable has really been written on the wall in six-foot letters of fire since the end of last year. This is really dumb but it’s also dead common: your spouse or partner or child or best friend has a stroke or a heart attack or is badly injured in a traffic accident or something and you go to pieces. Peter had the stroke. I’m knocked for six. I’m not getting on with stuff—EBON, renting Third House—that I have to get on with.† I want to do the Samaritans, and I think I can. The blog is, however, ultimately, dispensable. ††
So. It’s been real, as we used to say when turning on, tuning in and dropping out was cool.††† And the blog has been real, in its smoke and mirrors way. I’m hoping it will go on being real in a slightly streamlined, slightly reset mirrors and resignalled smoke way. ‡
We’ll find out.
Meanwhile . . . see you soon.‡‡ And thanks for all the fish.
* * *
* I still don’t know what happens when I reach the end of Part One. I’ve been assuming I’m going to take a break, and I’m still assuming that, but I don’t know what having fewer Days in the Life to write may do to writing about Kes’.
Also please note I will be HAPPY to continue to post GUEST BLOGS.
** My applying to the Samaritans is God’s fault again, although the Samaritans, as they say on their opening page, are very much not a religious organisation, unlike, for example, the Street Pastors. The funny thing is that it’s joining the SPs that has given me the confidence to try for the Samaritans—although the Samaritans have been on my radar for years. I went through some very rough stuff when I was pretty young and spent some years in therapy, including group therapy, where you learn something of the non-judgemental listening shtick which is the Samaritans’ stock in trade—and how important having someone to talk to is. But one of the Samaritans’ requirements is that you take an all-night shift every two or three months. And I knew I couldn’t do that. Then I went down with ME and volunteering for the Samaritans became as imaginary as anything Tolkien ever came up with. Then I hit menopause and while insomnia is part of my personal package of hormonal horror . . . so is being able to get by on less sleep. Oh. Hmm.
And then I turned Christian and my dormant do-gooder came droolingly, rampantly, havoc-creatingly to life. But I gravitate to the practical side of do-gooding: handing out flipflops and cups of hot soup is practical. But so is listening. You may know that from having been in group therapy. But you find it out all over again on your first pre-interview, pre-training observation night with the Street Pastors.
It wasn’t much over a month ago an ad for the Samaritans in the local paper caught my eye. They were holding an ‘information evening’ for potential volunteers. Yo, McKinley, said the bloke in the tatty blue jeans whom I first met 12/9/12. This.
Oh, and the best thing about the Samaritans? IT HAPPENS INDOORS. YOU SIT IN A NICE WELL-APPOINTED OFFICE ON A COMFY CHAIR WITH A TEAKETTLE AT YOUR IMMEDIATE DISPOSAL. YOU’RE NOT OUT ON A STREET CORNER FREEZING YOUR BUTT OFF OR DISSOLVING IN THE FRELLING DOWNPOUR.
*** I’m also sitting here thinking about how the more I’m managing to put into my singing the more frelling shattered I am after my voice lessons. I’d gone back to Dido’s Lament^ and Nadia said she’d like to hear it. I’ve got like eighty times more voice than I did when I learnt it the first time and—I realise how deafeningly ridiculous this is—the volume I’m now capable of scares me.^^ Siiiiiiiiiiigh.
^ It’s interesting, this business about repertoire. If you’ve gorblimey worked to learn something you don’t want to lose it. You can’t keep too many things on top at once, but you can circulate. On the face of it this is obvious. In practise this is yet one more unexpected skill you have to learn.
^^ Remember, however, I’m still talking about making the walls rattle in Nadia’s mum’s small low-ceilinged dining room. Not the Royal Albert Hall.
† I think I’ve done one doodle from my bottomless backlog in the last four months. Maybe two.
†† Even if there are a lot of hours of my life I’m not going to get back that I spent writing it.
††† Which probably doesn’t actually mean ‘get stoned and stay that way forever’ although my generation in our mad youth sure thought it did.
‡ There’s another aspect to this decision: I’m generating less blog material by the choices I’m making about how I spend my time. There’s an awful [sic] lot about the God thing I don’t feel like trying to explain on a public blog, for example. And while I can at least talk about the weather on Street Pastors nights, there’s an absolute black-out confidentiality requirement with the Samaritans^. You can’t talk to anyone about what happens on a duty shift except another Samaritan.^^
^ Which, as previously observed, takes place indoors. I suppose I could blog about the night I drop the cup of tea on the computer keyboard . . . I’d rather not be given this rich, golden opportunity. . . .
^^ And, just by the way, debriefing at the end of every shift is required. They take care of their own.
‡‡ MY NEW WASHING MACHINE IS ARRIVING ON WEDNESDAY . . . I hope. Let’s say it’s scheduled to arrive on Wednesday.
. . . to force BT to put a landline in, since there isn’t one in this centre-of-town, eighty-year-old house with the phone jack in the kitchen.
This is so eye-wateringly insane for me as an outsider that I can only imagine
No, no, you don’t want to imagine. Really you don’t.
how you can manage to prevent yourself tearing strips off the wall and frothing at the mouth over it.
Hey, I’m not going damage my walls. But the hellhounds and I do hunt down carelessly parked BT vans and write things like BT DOES NOT RULE on the windscreen in blood-red lipstick.
What did the electricians find behind the phone jack in the kitchen?? (presuming that it is the same system there in that the phone jack has a plastic plate and socket over the hole in the wall where the wires come in to)
Oh you poor creature, hampered by rational intelligence and an assumption of logic. There has been no electrician/BT technician. They’re making all these pronouncements by reading their computer screen and making patronising noises at me down the, er, phone. If they sent a BT operative to Third House it would cost me over £100. Just to say hi and let him/her in the door. It costs extra if he/she actually looks at plate and socket . . . and I’d probably have to get a second mortgage if they took the illusory phone-jack plate off the wall and examined whatever is behind it, before declaring that it’s all a fever dream and I should try to get more sleep, sign here, the invoice will follow.
. . but eventually I managed to find the very small print in the handbook that SAYS you can’t turn the ring off the portable handset. It does not, however, tell you why.
There is a radical solution. Next time you want to turn the ringer off (like at night etc) – take the battery out of the handset….
MESS with the thing? Give it MORE EXCUSE to misbehave? And besides, dropping it on the sofa and then flattening a heavy blanket*** over its face is strangely satisfying.
Although for hysterical-making LOUDNESS, any of you have back-up batteries for your desktop computers?
Mrph. We have a whole office full of them. I have insufficient words to explain the delight of them all going off at once.
Oh . . . my. Sympathies.
… There aren’t bluebells yet, are there? My mom and I carefully planned our late April/early May England trip to try to intersect with bluebells somewhere – south or north, we’re not fussy. ::chews nails:: But we’ll be happy with whatever we get. I bet there will be, you know, flowers. Maybe even roses by then…
There will certainly be flowers. I’m interested that Rachel recommends Gloucestershire for bluebells the beginning of May, but they are that little bit more north than us—ours are mostly going over by then. But for breathtakingly fabulous spring gardens down here in the south I recommend Wisley http://www.rhs.org.uk/gardens/wisley . . . camellias . . . mmmmmm . . . camellias. And also Savill Gardens and Windsor Great Park http://www.theroyallandscape.co.uk/gardens-and-landscape/the-savill-garden which will certainly have bluebells although I’m not sure what stage of out or over they’ll be in. Unless April is 80°F all month—which I pray most earnestly it will not be—you’re unlikely to see roses yet: a few of the first species or species-type roses maybe. Oh, you may have them in London! London is crazily early—all that ambient fossil-fuel heat brings stuff on. You can get roses flowering all winter too sometimes.
But have a spectacular trip. It’s rather a nice country, England†, I’m very fond of it . . . and it’s pretty frelling amazing for gardens.
And in small personal garden news: my snakeshead fritillaries are coming out. http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2012/sep/07/plant-offer-snakes-head-fritillary Yaaaaaaaay. It doesn’t get much better for a fumbling amateur gardener in the south of England: now if only my mysteriously-alive meconopsises stay alive and produce flowers . . . oh yes and all my roses rush out dazzlingly. . . . It’s hard to remember sometimes that I’d only put stuff in the ground for the first time that very last summer in Maine before Peter happened. Nostalgia? Not really. I’d rather be here.
* * *
* Also, I am tired. For various reasons I’ve been in Wolfgang way too much today but I found myself in Mauncester before the bookshops closed. And as if sleepwalking I discovered I was striding through a doorway surrounded by bookshelves. I was looking for something frivolous . . . or possibly knitting. Which is, of course, not frivolous. THEIR KNITTING SECTION WAS TERRIBLE. But I was already upstairs in nonfiction so I caromed from ‘hobbies’^ to ‘music’ where I picked up, not without effort, Michael Steen’s nearly a thousand pages of LIVES AND TIMES OF THE GREAT COMPOSERS and from there, all bent over from the weight, lurched to ‘religion and philosophy’ where I picked up over a thousand pages of Diarmid MacCulloch’s A HISTORY OF CHRISTIANITY . . . for balance. I then fell downstairs, paid, and crawled out the door. GET REAL, MCKINLEY. Oh, okay . . . so I stopped at the yarn shop on my way back to the car park and bought TWO KNITTING BOOKS . . . but they were on sale.^^
. . . Also, in my defense, I’ve been listening to the MacCulloch on Pooka and really need a hard copy crib. The subtitle is ‘the first three thousand [sic] years’ and a thousand pages isn’t enough. The stuff just streams by and you’re staring either at your knitting or some assortment of hurtling hellcritter butts and thinking, What? Who? When? Where? . . . What?
^ I should have realised that any bookshop that categorizes knitting as a hobby will have no clue.
^^ I narrowly escaped buying some yarn also on sale . . . I gave up CATALOGUES+ for Lent, I didn’t give up yarn, books or sales. Maybe I need to draw the contract up more carefully next year.
+ Yes. I did this last year. I need to do it again. It’s the negotiating that’s so frelling slippery: a lot of us, myself included, live by catalogues and the internet, and if you’re buying dog food or black cotton socks or The Art of Song Grade Seven for High Voice so you can give your teacher her copy back, it’s fine and great and a time saver and all that. But browsing . . . especially because I hate paying full postage on only one item . . . which of course the evil red-eyed drooling site proprietors are counting on. The latest development, or at least I’ve only just begun seeing it, is these frelling little pop-up boxes that say, Only £1,000,000.06 more and you’ll get not only free postage but an aircraft of World War I tea towel and a stuffed penguin! —GO AWAY. . . . no, wait, I can always use another tea towel . . . STOP THAT.
*** The heavy blanket, in fact, that is still going with me to the monks’ every Saturday night. You know it’s supposed to get up to SEVENTY DEGREES [F] tomorrow? I wonder if I dare . . . noooo, the chapel will still be freezing. . . .
† Barring the politicians, the road signs, the broadband availability, and all the other usual things that are wrong with first-world countries in the twenty-first century.
Okay, let me get the really embarrassing stuff over with immediately.
I enjoyed it. I had FUN. I am planning on putting myself on the official St Margaret’s rota.*
Whew. That was hard. I enjoyed singing Jesus Is My Boyfriend** music [sic]. In public. How totally humiliating is that.
Sunday, which was sunny and fabulous, passed under my own personal cloud of prospective dread. I did do some singing warm up because I wanted some chance at some voice and I tend to shut down to a tiny rasping squeak like a single lonely cicada when I’m nervous. I didn’t warm up exactly brilliantly.*** And when I crept into St Margaret’s I was not encouraged by the sight of Aloysius ALL BY HIMSELF except for the woman who was going to be running the tech deck helping him lay out the cables. He had said in his email that the names on the rota were a bit thin this week. . . .
Fortunately it wasn’t as bad as that. Samantha appeared deus ex machina, saying that she hadn’t been planning to sing that night but she had realised that I was going to be all alone and she couldn’t do that to a new girl. Eeeeep. Thank you. Eeeeeeeeep. And then Sinead, another rota singer, wandered in and said that she couldn’t do her proper rota day and maybe we could use her tonight? YES. PLEASE. HERE, HAVE A MICROPHONE. Hamish, the church office magician, appeared, spun his spurs and strapped on his six-shooter. Er. Bass. But that was all. No drums. No keyboards. No random woodwinds. No vicar—he’s always there.†
We plunged into practise. I was on the near end with Aloysius just at my right shoulder which is very good because not only does his guitar give me the key I’m scrabbling for but he’s a nice strong tenor and I’d already told him he had to sing the melody. The first couple of songs are a bit of a blur. I was holding the mic as if it was going to morph into something with six heads and forty-seven incisors per as soon as I stopped staring at it like it was going to. The Hammered to Death by Fluffy Bunnies song was substantially less diabolical with the new line-up but we had to go through it several times since I had no clue about what it was supposed to sound like—and of course there was no sheet music. And then Aloysius had to get fancy and bolt a couple of songs together so you slide into the second one without a break and then revert to the previous one for a chorus repeat WHAT ARE YOU TRYING TO DO TO US YOU’RE SUPPOSED TO BE ONE OF THE GOOD GUYS.
I don’t really know what happened except that I think I can hear God laughing. My voice woke up. And the last couple of songs I actually kind of like††—especially the one which is in a reasonable range, so many of the Jesus Is My Boyfriend songs lie on my voice like bricks on custard, it’s like the aural version of trying to wear someone else’s prescription glasses, and neither singing up an octave or down an octave works. But here were two I could sing.
And I did. And furthermore . . . and this is where I know I was taken over by an alien personality . . . I started singing free harmony. I do not sing free harmony. I can learn a harmonic line, given the sheet music and about six months, but I cannot just frelling riff off a melody. Whoever she was, Sunday night, using my voice, I hope she visits often. That was serious fun. At the end Sinead gave me a hug and said, I can tell you like that song!
And then the live performance—I mean the service—was pretty much falling off a log. Problem? There was supposed to be a problem?
There are one or two things to mention here. First, St Margaret’s evening service is small and informal. It’s not like anyone was going to be nasty to me even if I screwed up big time. And I don’t exactly guarantee I was pitch perfect even while the self-confident alien babe was singing. Second, most of the Jesus Is My Boyfriend stuff is dead easy, especially if you’re used to beating your brains and ripping your own throat out singing stuff that is significantly beyond you because you take voice lessons and your voice teacher needs something to do, right?††† It should be easy: people who don’t take voice lessons should be able to sing their church’s worship music.‡ And third . . . I was just telling someone who asked me how I ‘learnt’ to do public speaking . . . I didn’t. After my BEAUTY was published they sent me out on the road and I discovered I could do public speaking. It’s like one of those James Bond things: the car develops waterwings or the knapsack is also a rocketblaster. I CAN DO PUBLIC SPEAKING? WHAT? WHERE DID THAT COME FROM? Aside from little questions like whether I can sing or not, apparently singing in public doesn’t make this agonising doubt any more agonising.
How frelling bizarre. I did think it was at least possible that if I didn’t freeze up, singing for purpose—helping to lead the service—would let me like the floppy, soppy music we sing better, and make it feel more like an offering of worship instead of a mortification, ashes and hair shirts optional. And. Yeah. But I wasn’t expecting the harmony—or the high.
* * *
* Unless someone stops me. Noooooo! She’s too loooooooud! She drowns out the keyboard! —Ugly. Mwahahahahahahaha. —slightlyadaptedhellgoddess^
^ I belong to the Love Wins camp, remember, so if you’re asking me, all reigning in all the various hells—ie the nice somewhat confused ones and the really unpleasant ones—is temporary. Which is fine. I’m sure I’ll be ready for a new challenge when my particular corner of hell disintegrates.+
+ There will be chocolate, champagne and critters in heaven, won’t there?#
# Of course there will. And the roses WILL HAVE NO THORNS.
** ::falls down laughing:: Thank you, dhudson. I love this. I’m also glad that it seems to other people that there’s something CREEEEEEEEPY about a lot of this sticky music: I’ve been describing these songs as frelling power ballads only it’s God instead of your boyfriend/girlfriend/groupoffriendswithprivileges. Dhudson’s phrase cuts to the chase.
Although some of the old gospel hymns, which is what I grew up with and are about the only positive memory I have of church as a kid, aren’t exactly faultless in this area. I’ve always loved In the Garden, and it’s one of those I’ve been singing for fifty-odd years and did not have to relearn the lyrics when I started singing while hurtling as a way to shortening the warm-up when I get back to the piano and the Italian art songs etc^, but it’s always struck me as doctrinally a little dubious:
He walks with me, and he talks with me
And he tells me I am his own
And the joy we share as we tarry there
None other has ever known.
^ Also I’m beginning to enjoy the looks on other pedestrians’ faces when I don’t shut up in time and lyrics like ‘On that bright and cloudless morning when the dead in Christ shall rise’+ register on their unsuspecting ears, which in this modern well-zombied culture may rouse an unfortunate secular response.
+ Which I confess I tend to belt out with all the new Nadia-power within me.
*** I also crack a lot when I’m nervous. How many ways is this going to be a disaster.
† Vicars. They take holidays. Who knew?
†† No, no, not like! Oisin will never speak to me again!
††† HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA. And for my latest stupid trick I’m learning Victor Herbert’s I want to be a prima donna—aka Art Is Calling to Me—mainly because it’s silly and I’ve always loved it for being silly. It also has a high Bb. The thing, as I told Nadia, that is really irritating is that I have a high Bb . . . when I’m doing the frelling washing up. As soon as I get near the piano it jumps out the window and runs off to Cornwall. Or Canada. I assume this is common, you can remember a note long enough to check it on the piano? Yes that is a high Bb, but try and do it again suuuuucker. . . . . Nadia says, just rewrite it for now. You can put the Bb back in later.
‡ I don’t have a problem with that; my beloved gospel tunes are pretty much the only music on the planet that I can more or less play on the piano with both hands by sight-reading. Easy. Very, very easy music.