It’s been another fabulously gorgeous SHIRTSLEEVE day and . . .
. . . I’m not in a very good mood. In the first place . . . yurk, where do I start ‘in the first place’? Okay, top contenders for ‘in the first place’:
1. Speaking of fabulously gorgeous shirtsleeve weather WE’RE GOING TO HAVE FROST AGAIN OVER THE WEEKEND. And I have several brand-new trays of snapdragons and diascias sitting around waiting hopefully to be planted. As well as a few dahlia tubers that have been planted in pots* and will therefore join the frelling kitchen queue this weekend . . . Not to mention the petunias, begonias, geraniums, hippeastrums, sweet peas etc that have been out there a while already, when they aren’t cluttering up the Winter Table and the kitchen floor. And if I don’t get my glads in soon they won’t bloom till . . . after the first frosts this autumn.
2. Hellhounds are eating about one meal in three. Sort of. It’s hard to tell because I’ve cut back to about half rations . . . and they’re still playing a sort of hopscotch game the rules of which are opaque to me, where one of them may eat one meal/day while the other one doesn’t eat at all, or one of them will eat one third of this meal and two thirds of the next while the other one finishes the first meal and has two and a half mouthfuls of the next. Their ribs look more like toast racks every day. And as I have just been telling Darkness, who ate none of his lunch and has deigned to eat about two-thirds of his (half-size) supper, if I weren’t worrying about their making themselves ill, I’d just frelling let them starve themselves into a citation from the RSPCA. Fine. Let the RSPCA try and get the little ratbags to eat. How am I supposed to know:
(a) When they’re just being total little scum-sucking ticks and
(b) When they’re going to go over the line into making themselves ill?
I want to know BEFORE we reach (b), okay? Meanwhile the recycled kibble levels are getting extreme and eventually you have to throw it out. £££££££. Not amused. Not amused at all.
3. The hellterror has the runs. No, she has the fountains.
3b. The hellterror is also coming into her first heat. JOY. I don’t know if these two items of interest are in any way connected. I have known bitches who suffer bowel irregularities while they’re on heat but this is a little . . . ultimate. Hellhounds are not, fortunately, the slightest bit interested in local hormonal mayhem—at least not so far, but she’s not in full, you should forgive the term, torrent yet either—and maybe the first puppy heat causes maximum internal uproar and minimum exterior captivatingness? Dunno. But if she’s planning on having excretory melodrama every heat, she’s not going to keep her ovaries long enough to have a litter. Stay tuned.
The good news, such as it is, is that none of this is bothering her in the slightest. She’s the same manic little furball as usual.
4. The ME is biting me. Hard. Still. All this sunny shirtsleeve weather in the garden has been lovely, and the whole sudden change of season thing stuns normal healthy people too, and it may take them a few days to find their summer rhythm**. And the plants don’t care if you’re moving kind of slowly.*** But. . . .
4b. I’ve officially quit the Muddles . . . again. Damn. But I haven’t got the stamina for those two and a half hour rehearsals and I feel a little less than enthusiastic about exposing my never-a-strong-point lungs to that air in that church when I’m coming off flu; furthermore there isn’t time for me to learn the music, now, before the next concert. I don’t know what I’m going to do about singing; I am NOT giving up my voice lessons, but it feels dumb and silly not to be doing something with what I’m (theoretically) learning, and at my level of ability that’s some kind of undemanding group. And undemanding-group choices in this area are limited.
4c. Having cut back significantly on the amount of time I spend on the blog† . . . I probably haven’t cut back enough. I don’t like the feel of this go of the ME: I don’t like the glint in its steely little eyes. I think that look it’s giving me is telling me that the Muddles is only the beginning. I think I am going to have to do more hacking and hewing. This is sure to hit bell ringing . . . especially because of all the driving to this and that tower, and driving is always my most obvious weak point. At least the blog I can do on the sofa/kitchen table/bed.
Maybe I can knit more.
Maybe I can READ more.
But . . . sigh.††
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* Large pots. Dahlia tubers tend to be large.
** Especially if it keeps going away and dropping everyone back in their fleeces and flannels again.
*** Yoo-hoo! Over here! Don’t forget us! We’re hungry/thirsty/an impenetrable jungle too!
† And GREAT GROVELLING REPEATED THANKS to all you guest-post providers who help with this.
†† And I am NEVER going to try to write an outline on Microsoft Word again. ARRRRRRRRGH. I can hardly wait to see what WordPress does to my attempts to outflank bloody Word’s idea of how to write an outline. . . .
The good news: hellhounds ate lunch. The bad news: Eventually. This is the first really long grim eating-resistant patch they’ve had since Pav came home and in the first place I’m out of practise being made this crazy and in the second place I. DO. NOT. HAVE. TIME. FOR. THIS. NONSENSE. Night before last Chaos didn’t eat more than two mouthfuls of supper—Darkness scarfed his and looked like he’d eat more. Last night I gave Chaos less . . . and Chaos scarfed his, looked like he’d’ve eaten more, and Darkness didn’t eat more than two mouthfuls. AAAAAAAAAUGH. And . . . which is why I feel obliged to be made crazy TRYING TO MAKE THEM FRELLING EAT . . . you can pretty much tell who didn’t eat much last meal: he’s the one who tries harder not to eat anything NEXT meal.
Hellterrors are clearly my future.* But I sometimes think Pav carries it to extremes. I’d heard rumours of dogs that will lick up a homeopathic pill if you offer it to them—the pills are sweet, after all. Pav does. No problem. Hellhounds do not, of course, hellhounds who closely inspect even bits of chicken before they accept them (when they accept them), although fortunately they are only weary rather than hostile to my periodic prying open of their mouths to dose them with one thing or another. I wouldn’t DREAM of trying to give them actual medicine any way but stuffing it down their throats by hand, or rather by poking finger. Pav’s first pill a couple of days ago I went through the business of opening her mouth to put the pill at the back of her throat, and she was so HEY, DO I GET TO SWALLOW SOMETHING? THAT’S GREAT, I LOVE SWALLOWING THINGS that because I am a silly person I offered her her next pill on the flat of my hand, like offering a horse a carrot. She ate it. She picked it up and ate it. I waited a minute—probably with my jaw hanging open—to make sure it didn’t re-emerge. Nope. The next one I gave her the same way and I heard her chewing it up. Crunch crunch crunch (they’re kind of big pills for a relatively little hellterror).
. . . It’s been another frantic day. Fridays usually are.** And in a few minutes I have to face hellcritter supper, two-thirds of which is likely to be fraught.
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* I’ve told you I had my hand pretty much poised over the phone to make the appointment to visit the local greyhound rescue when I saw the ad for whippet-cross puppies—and that I came out of hellhound puppyhood gasping that I was getting too old for this and they were probably my last puppies. Ahem. Pav, however, as puppies go, is so frelling easy that I can imagine doing this again^, but I was thinking, if I ever get to the greyhound-rescue point again, a good rescue shelter knows its dogs, and I CAN ASK FOR ONE THAT EATS.
^ And if I breed the little hussy+ I almost certainly will
+ Southdowner asked me if I had a plan in place for when she comes on heat the first time. I said that I was going to continue to crate them, and crate them separately, and the hellhounds thus far had never shown any great interest in bitches on the make. . . . So you’re hoping to get away with it, said Southdowner, only a little sardonically. It’s not impossible, she went on, but bullies tend to be sexy little things. I was afraid you were going to say that, I replied sadly.
** Try warming up your singing voice while your hellhounds are refusing to eat their lunch. Between the sheer ARRRRRRGH factor and the absolute necessity not to say ARRRRRRRRRRRGH to them, your voice snaps shut like a switchblade. I sang anyway. I am DETERMINED this time to start singing for Oisin regularly. I am NEVER going to get used to singing with someone else doing something else/an accompanist/a partner if I DON’T DO IT. Meanwhile I’d had this possibly sensible^ idea that I might have a better run at figuring out the system for singing-with if I started with songs that I know really, really, REALLY well—like the songs I sing when I’m out hurtling^^. So I fished a few of these out of the rather terrifying stack(s) of music standing beside and around the piano^^^ and discovered . . . that in the weeks, months or years of singing them away from the piano I have, in a few cases . . . as one might say developed my own version.
I sang ’em anyway. I tried to sing them the way Oisin was playing them. . . . #
^ Sensible? Sensible? Who do I think I am?
^^ I’ve been thinking about this. When I was a kid you heard people singing—out walking the dog, or the guy at the garage pumping your gas, or your friend’s mom when you went home with someone after school (because in the ’50s in America your friend’s mom would be home). I’m not so old I remember a time before radio but I certainly remember a time before transistor radios had completely taken over—when people still sang because there wasn’t a professional doing it better out of some small shiny electronic box near at hand. Even then though you still heard ordinary people singing sometimes . . . you even heard them singing occasionally through the early eras of portable playback gadgets. And then the Sony Walkman happened. Wiki says it launched in 1979: I remember it (and increasing numbers of rivals), in its turn, completely taking over in the ’80s. And I can’t remember the last time I heard anyone over the age of about six singing for no particular reason in public. I remember being a little uneasy back then about the turn on, tune in and drop out aspect of everyone’s favourite new toy—I was a teenager in the ’60s after all—although I succumbed pretty soon. I’m maybe more conscious of the dangerous attractions of voluntary isolation than someone who works in an office and quite reasonably can’t wait to plug in away from his/her annoying colleagues. The professionally creative always has the excuse of needing to earn a living for locking herself away from the rest of the world and music can be a very good way to engage with that ratbagging story that won’t tell her what it wants. I’ve already answered my own question about why a nearly talent-free amateur dweeb should bother studying music—because any experience of performance spectacularly opens out your relationship with all music—but I’m still not going to try to strongarm anyone into coming to the Muddles’ next concert. But . . . I think we’ve lost something, if people really don’t sing while walking the dog(s) any more, or hum off-handedly, and possibly off-pitch, while standing in a queue at the chemist, rather than automatically getting their iPod out and closing themselves off with earphones.
^^^ Very similar to the TBR pile(s) around the bed at the cottage. And let’s not talk about the yarn. In the cupboard, under the bed, and in the too-short-for-another-shelf-of-books-because-my-moron-of-a-carpenter-didn’t-do-what-I-said space+ above the upstairs bookshelves.
+Maybe he had a vision that I was going to need stash space in a few years.
# Which in the case of, say, Benjamin Britten taking the mickey out of Peter Pears, trying to follow what your pianist is doing is not helpful.
I took Pav to the vet yesterday. Since our little episode with unspeakable substances in the South Desuetude churchyard a few weeks ago, she’s had a funny spot on the top of her head. There had been a stain there after our adventure and I had rubbed rather hard when I got her home and into the bathtub. My first thought was a soap allergy, and the first time the vet saw her about a fortnight ago he said that was possible, but keep an eye on it.
I’ve kept an eye on it. It’s begun insidiously to spread, and there are little crusty bits.* Eczema? My next thought was that this was a late bad reaction to the final puppy jabs—she’s six months old, and that’s a classic time for a late backlash. It hasn’t been bothering her any—it’s apparently not even itchy—so aside from giving her the obvious homeopathic detox remedies, in case it was to do with the inoculations, I’ve been leaving it alone.
And then Southdowner texted me last week that she was coming this way, could she stop in and how was Monday? Great, I said, let’s meet at the abbey for evensong after my voice lesson.** Of course she wanted to see Pav: I am merely the gateway for the viewing of Pav. Oh what a beautiful puppy, said Southdowner, even if she does have a funny patch on her forehead. Southdowner had never seen anything like the funny patch either, so I agreed that I’d take her to the vet and ask them to culture it, whatever it is.***
Meanwhile the hellhounds are going through a Not Eating phase. ARRRRRGH. STRESS. STRESS.
Here I thought Pav would enjoy the vet—she loves strange places and strange people and strange experiences. But apparently some recent trauma was hanging heavily in the air† and she spent the entire episode trying to crawl inside my shirt. When we got into the examining room she started backing up the wall, which made me all nostalgic for Holly, whose trick that was. The vet said that The Patch might be adolescent hormones—but that he agreed a culture was a good idea. So I trapped Pav, something I’m extremely skilled at from the exigencies of trying to greet three hellcritters simultaneously with a minimum of mayhem, the vet got his scraping, and Pav and I went for a nice restorative hurtle by the water meadows.
It’s Bacterial Overgrowth of Unknown Origin. I am very fond of this vet—who’s been at this surgery for as long as I’ve been in England—because he has a rare combination of skills: He wants you to know as much about the situation as he does, none of this I Am the Expert, Now Shut Up and Do What I Say, he allows you to have your own experience and to frelling well know your own critter (‘look, he/she is off, I can’t tell you how, I just know it’), and he will do his level best to support you in any responsible decision you make about your critter—including, for example, putting Rowan to sleep on a Sunday afternoon.†† So when I came back today for results and drugs, he showed me the culture and told me what all the different fuzzy bits were . . . and I’m afraid chances are the reason whatever this is got hold is because I scrubbed so hard. I probably broke the skin I was trying to clean and let the bad bugs in.
Sigh. However. We have drugs. And the hellhounds ate dinner.
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* This is some of the reason why there haven’t been hellterror pics lately. It’s not a great weeping sore and people don’t cross the street to stay away from us. And in a photo you can’t really see what you are seeing: it looks a bit like a few pixels have failed and a small spot on her forehead is breaking up. But it makes her look imperfect and that is not allowed. Also she’s enough bigger and faster that she’s a lot harder to take photos of, I keep forgetting to ask visitors to take some, and I haven’t addressed the problem yet.
** This is not the best idea I have ever had. I was high enough, so to speak, after contending with Dido, that I managed to listen to that heavenly, and professional, choir, without either bursting into tears or setting fire to my music. But it was a trifle scourging. I’ve done this a few times—gone to evensong after my voice lesson—but it’s curiously worse when you may actually be getting somewhere in your own embarrassingly negligible way. If you’re a wombat watching a thoroughbred horse race you can just look at those pretty shiny long-legged creatures and think ‘wow’. If you’re a 13.2 hand cob, which is to say a little short square horse, it may be harder on morale.
*** There’s been at least one puppy drama you haven’t heard about because it lacerated Olivia’s feelings so badly and I know she keeps an eye on the blog for Pav sightings. Last time she was down she didn’t bother with any of the niceties like ‘hi, how are you’, but snatched Pav up immediately and looked at her teeth. All four puppies two or three months ago had their bottom teeth growing up inside their upper teeth because their lower jaws were too narrow. If this was a permanent situation it could be bad, like corrective dentistry and expensive and traumatic mucking about bad. It would also mean that none of the puppies would be bred, because this is a significant enough design fault that no responsible breeder would risk passing it on.
I was of course delighted to be let off the show circuit thing, but I felt more than a little wistful about no longer having the possibility of breeding Pav some day in the far distant future. She is so pretty^ and sweet and she is amazingly mellow for a bull terrier^^ and all these generous and comprehensive traits are so exactly what you do want to pass on.
Southdowner was distressed about the narrow jaw situation too: Lavvy is of her breeding and (according to Olivia) more or less took Olivia by the ear while she was helping her choose a stud, and said This one. So she felt responsible as well as involved. We won’t worry about it now, she said (especially to Olivia, who was throwing herself around and declaring that she was never, ever going to breed a litter again and furthermore she was giving Lavvy away and moving to a dog-free atoll), let’s see what they’re like when they’ve grown a little more: puppies do go through some weird phases.
I think Southdowner waited a good thirty seconds before lifting Pav’s lip to check her teeth . . . and then grinned all over her face. I knew that the teeth met better than they had when Olivia had looked but I’m not sure what I’m looking at and wasn’t sure if all was well or not. All is now well. Crufts next year, said Southdowner, still grinning.
. . . Southdowner also says that Pav won’t grow that much more—but that she’s too thin and I need to feed her more. Yeep. Here I thought she was elegant and svelte. Bullies don’t do elegant and svelte, said Southdowner severely. Bull terriers are supposed to be chunky little granite boulders on little short legs. Feed her more. Oh. Well, she’ll like that. Southdowner also says that I can certainly go on carrying her as long as I can go on carrying her: that as far as Pav is concerned, she’s a lap and/or under-the-arm dog. And as previously observed, she dangles extremely well.
^ Sic: you just need to get your bull-terrier eye in. Of course I’m also intemperately biased, but she is very pretty.
^^ I was reading an article in a dog mag at the vets’ yesterday about bull terriers. In the first place the photos were all of inferior bullies, and in the second place the text is all about stubborn. Well, bullies are not Trainability Machines like border collies, but border collies have other drawbacks+ and STUBBORN? At least they EAT. Sighthounds are stubborn and you can’t even frelling bribe them.
+ See: SHADOWS
† I asked Southdowner about this and she said, absolutely. It’s not just that dogs pick up stuff that we don’t—a frightened critter releases fear pheromones.
†† In a long by dog standards life of frequent vet-necessary emergencies, all of Rowan’s happened on weekends. Including the final one.
I have an attitude breakthrough to report.
I’ve stopped hating the way I sound when I sing. Although hating isn’t quite right: there’s not enough there to hate, which is more the point. How I sound is so dreary and depressing and characterless. So I’ve stopped being depressed about how I sound. It’s all very ridiculous really: I’m taking voice lessons for pity’s sake because I like singing. It is seriously counterproductive to wreck the fun by going all condemningly perfectionist on my own ass.
Now some large and crucial part of this breakthrough is what Nadia has managed to do with me—I make a lot more noise than I did two years ago, and of significantly better quality. It’s not like prying a hellterror’s jaws open every time I want to sing something any more, against the clamping-shut instinct of Not Good Enough. I’m still not Beverly Sills. But part of what is ridiculous is that I don’t want to be Beverly Sills*—talent comes with responsibility and I already know about the responsibility of talent: I’m a frelling fiction writer.** I don’t need any more blasted arteeeeestic responsibilities. But I still want to be an audible member of the Muddles—and not audible in a way that makes the musical director lie awake nights wondering how to tell me that he thinks I have a great future in cross stitch or painting on china.
I’m not sure when the breakthrough actually arrived. I was aware of it after I sang for Oisin on Friday, that the whole business had been slightly less traumatic than I might have expected. That I was slightly more conscious (than I might have expected) that I want to do this, that while I am not up to Oisin’s (professional) weight, I like the variety of singing-with, the kick of singing with an entirely different instrument than another human voice or group of voices. I think I said on Friday that the more complex arrangement Oisin was playing than what I’m used to made it more of a duet—even if a sort of three-legged race of a duet, where Usain Bolt is shackled to a ninety-year-old asthmatic with a limp.
But I came away from that thinking more about how much fun it was than how awful I was.*** Which is more or less when the penny dropped, although it tumbled down in slo-mo and took a very long time to hit the floor. Never mind whether I am or am not Beverly Sills: what I do have is usable so how about if we stop with the angst and use it? I’ve been singing my tiny brains out all weekend† and Sunday, having already put in about forty minutes’ real practise as well as about an hour singing to hellcritters††, I was singing at St Radegund††† and thinking, hmm, I hope I haven’t sung myself hoarse, I have a voice lesson tomorrow.‡
I hadn’t sung myself hoarse. I warmed up not too badly today at home and went off all hopeful but nervous—my breakthrough is real enough but whether it was going to show in any way that Nadia could hear was dubious. My warm-up for her was pretty standard, with her saying things like, Now let’s do that again and this time pretend you’re enjoying it. And then the moment arrived when she asked me what I’d like to work on.
Partly I think because my breakthrough was creeping up on me and partly because Nadia has suggested or given me extra stuff to look at recently I’m in the flighty dilettante’s position of trying to learn too many pieces of music at once, and have about half a dozen half learnt. But I knew the answer to this question. Um, Dido? I said. If you can stand it.
Dido’s Lament is one of the things I’d started learning, more or less for laughs, while Nadia was on maternity leave, so it’s been around for a while.‡‡ I’m pretty sure I’ve mentioned mangling it here before. Sigh. Because I am like this I’d managed to convince myself that I Can’t Sing It and of course this approach is self-fulfilling.‡‡‡ Arrgh. So not only did I keep sliding off pitch—which Nadia kept insisting wasn’t about my ear but my confidence—but I made a complete dog’s dinner of the timing, like I’d forgotten how to count or something. ARRGH. Well, I can at least relearn to count, so I frelling did. And then . . . I’ve been singing it again this week, now that the COUNTING is back in place and . . .
. . . Okay, I’m not Beverly Sills. Or Janet Baker. But I think I may even have surprised Nadia a little. I really sang the sucker. There was positively some communication of emotion in my delivery, which is probably a FIRST. Dig deeper, said Nadia—which first requires I’m digging at all, you know? And she even said at one point—after an exegesis on the relationship between the soft palate and the pelvis—that it’s great to be talking technique to me at this level.
Yes. It is. Yaaaaay.
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* Aside from the fact that we’ve already had Beverly Sills and we don’t get another one.
** And yes, I write fantasy and I do say that I hope my books are good wet Saturday afternoon reads^ and I am not Charles Dickens or Leo Tolstoi^^ but I do honestly and genuinely believe that some of what I’ve managed to write really resonates for some readers. Hey, I get letters from them. And thank you very much. But the writing is nonetheless ferociously hard work. Talent doesn’t make it easy. Talent makes it possible.
^ on the sofa with critters
^^ And a good thing too, they were both utter liver flukes of human beings
*** I told Nadia all about it of course, and she said I should go ahead and learn Oisin’s version too—including the two-and-a-half-notes higher part—that there are lots of arrangements out there and my version is in fact unusually low. And about not realising I was singing high Gs she said drily, yes, it’s amazing what you’re capable of when you don’t know what you’re singing.
† I need to learn more songs. That is, finish learning, off by heart, for singing while hurtling and over the washing-up. And more verses of the songs I do know.
†† I don’t sing to the hellterror much, I have to break off so often to dive at her shrieking I lose musical momentum.
††† And two people turned around to see where that racket was coming from. I think I’ve told you this before: I am now louder than the average member of a congregation. This is responsibility of a sort, I suppose: either get the notes right or shut up.
‡ This didn’t stop me singing at St Margaret’s. I am now in Singing Mode.
‡‡ Longer than that, because I’d just started looking at it with Blondel when he left.
‡‡‡ And it doesn’t help at all remembering that Purcell wrote his opera for a bunch of frelling teenagers. It’s not like late Strauss or something.
The problem with feeling better after you have been feeling what you need to feel better from for too long is that ALL THE STUFF YOU’VE BEEN NEGLECTING FALLS ON YOU LIKE A PIANO FROM A THIRD-STORY WINDOW. I got up this morning so I had, like, a morning to do something with. And it all disappeared down the time-hole in things like laundry and mopping the kitchen floor*. I even got out into my poor neglected garden for about half an hour . . . and spent most of it picking up broken glass from the greenhouse. Siiiiiigh.
I’d also managed to forget that one of Peter’s daughters was coming to lunch and while she’s extremely used to me and my little (late) ways, still, I came boiling in when she and Peter were having their coffee which was a trifle embarrassing. At least I didn’t miss her entirely . . . which has been known to happen. And when Peter went to have his nap she and I fell into one of those intense Girl Conversations . . . which meant TIME WENT RUSHING BY AGAIN and I suddenly woke up to the fact that I was due for my musical cup of tea with Oisin RIGHT NOW.
I have bottled out of singing for him for months, even these last several weeks since Nadia told me I should take Evening Hymn (Purcell) to him. Either I have broken through one of those developmental stages or it’s spring or something** but I really WANTED to sing for him today—to get on with it, you know? Not using Oisin is stupid. How many feeble amateur singers have a readily available, good natured professional accompanist who furthermore is a teacher himself so understands about student neurosis? He doesn’t even charge what he’s worth. I have no excuse. So I’d decided I was going to sing for him today . . . before I remembered that Nina would be at the mews, where my piano lives, and all my music, and where I practise. Drat. This is dumb too, because Nina is a very-good-middling, if you follow me, violinist, and plays in a couple of little local orchestras, and completely knows about musical struggles at approximately my level. She’s even brought her violin occasionally, and played or practised with us around.
Still. This is bridge too far territory. But I had been singing while I washed the floor—I need to sing while I do things like wash floors—so I wasn’t entirely not warmed up, and I did have a voice today (I don’t always, and while Nadia can winkle it out of wherever it’s hiding, I usually can’t, if it needs winkling) and I thought OH FRELL IT ANYWAY and snatched up . . . mostly the wrong music, which is to say I didn’t pick up the folk songs I wanted to start with to settle me down.
But I arrived carrying music, you know? And Oisin leaped to conclusions. Good teachers are like that. They like to see their students, you know, doing the stuff they’re supposed to be learning.
So I sang. Pretty well cold. I mean, we started with Evening Hymn because that’s what I’d managed to bring. I hadn’t even brought that competently (no second copy for him) but Oisin said, oh, don’t worry, I have it. He did have a copy, but in a different arrangement, with a lot more twiddly bits. I really liked it—the version I have is pretty much trying to sound like basso continuo and it’s attractive but stark. What Oisin was playing allows the accompanist to shine more, and to the extent that I’m into this game at all I’m all about singing with and I like the idea that your ‘accompanist’ is actually your partner.
So I was already off balance by not having practised, and then I was more off balance by an unknown accompaniment and . . . I did think it was a little higher than what I was used to singing but hey, it was probably just nerves, and once you’ve got your note all the following notes are relational, you know?, so it shouldn’t matter all that much. (Ha ha ha.) I also glanced at his key signature and it had sharps on it, and mine has sharps on it so . . . it was just the extra twiddly bits. I did not sing well, but I did sing, I did hang on to the end, and there were one or two notes along the way that were Not Bad. And for someone as well inculcated to studentry as Oisin, I want to believe that it’s obvious even through the squeaks and fumbles that I really love this piece of music.
We went through it twice and Oisin was all encouraging and supportive and so on, and how much stronger I sounded than the last time he’d heard me, and I was saying now that I’d finally sung for him again I wanted to start doing it regularly because it was such GOOD PRACTISE and made another of those enormous differences in how I relate to a piece of music I’m trying to learn.***
And at the very end—just before the cup of tea and chat—as a kind of afterthought we compared our versions. Oisin’s is a whole two and a half notes higher than mine—starts on a D instead of an A. YEEEP. The whap up the side of my head part is that this meant I was topping out on a G which is not high, but it’s high enough to give me the whimwhams when I’m singing it for anyone, especially Oisin, because of the professional-accompanist thing, you know, ohmigod there’s a G coming I’m going to die. Nadia has been telling me this for the most-of two years I’ve been going to her: be sure to practise away from the piano too so you don’t know what you’re singing. If you’re having a good day, go ahead and warble up through your exercises and let your voice soar. You can check what you’re singing afterward. I had no idea I was singing a G today. . . .
* * *
* For pity’s sake I’ve only got three dogs and one of them is still little.^ You know the Odd Sock Planet, which is where all the pairs to your socks go? My kitchen floor is the Dirt Planet. Arrgh.
^ Although ‘little’ gets more relative all the time. I had a friend here yesterday and we spent a good deal of our day first wandering around Mauncester looking for little Englishye giftye items for her to take back to the States, and talking. Finding quaint local giftyes gets harder and harder because you can order anything on the internet any more, probably including rancid yak butter for your Tibetan tea.+ We repeated this quaint giftye process in New Arcadia (including the talking). I met her at the train station++ in Mauncester with accompanying hellhounds; we prowled New Arcadia with accompanying hellterror. Hellterror is still pretty much an unguided missile—an eager, outgoing unguided missile—she’s also still just about carryable. Just. About. So when we went in shops I carried her. This is actually a fabulous way not to spend money, having your arms full of eager, outgoing, interested hellterror. It fascinates me how good she still is about being carried—all that Holding when she was still really little—and she hasn’t figured out that she’s really too big for this scam and I’m staggering along like an ant in a cartoon carrying the Taj Mahal on its head—not to mention the increasing amount of her which inevitably dangles. But I remember fretting about keeping two shifts of hellcritters sufficiently hurtled—the hellhounds have actually grown up to be lazy beggars, and I don’t think they’ve noticed that the same number of walks they go out on have gotten cumulatively rather shorter—but a puppy? A perpetual-motion puppy like a bull terrier? Nah, said Olivia, it’s not fantastic amounts of exercise they need, it’s stimulation. Pav was VERY WELL STIMULATED yesterday. She is such a different personality from the hellhounds. Hellhounds are polite—much politer than hellterror puppies, or I wouldn’t have been able to go in the shops with eighty-plus pounds of long-legged long-nosed and long-tailed hellhounds—but if it doesn’t run and they can’t chase it, or it doesn’t seem to engage the hellgoddess’ regard in an undesirable-by-hellhounds manner, they aren’t too concerned. Hellterror is stiff with attention, little prick ears and little badger face swivelling around watching everything, little forepaws gripping my (sagging) arm. She’s much better behaved being clutched to my bosom than she is causing mayhem around my ankles. I don’t know how much of this is all the early Holding and how much is the unfamiliar view from four feet up, but it makes me want to do press-ups so I can keep carrying her a little longer.
+ Or buy ordinary yak butter and have it shipped over surface and it’ll rancidify itself on the way.
++ Nearly half an hour late because I set my kitchen timer alarm wrong. Kill meeeeeeeeeee.
** Tell that to the WEATHER
*** See previous blog about Why mediocre amateurs should bother.