The book club? What book club? So passé, darling – nobody reads anymore. God no... (Well except, apparently for a bit of Mummy Porn. On the tube. I mean, who reads porn on the tube? Who reads porn? It’s all so sweetly tame and retro compared to the blatancy that pops up – as it were - on the most innocently seeming Google search. For instance, I still, trustingly, though Gonzo was a purple Muppet. Well, purple… yes, but there the similarity ends.)
[Step back Parentheses police – I know it’s too long to be an aside…]
So no book club. Nowadays we Stitch and bitch, or have Theatre Groups. I kinda hate the theatre; but I should pretend more. It would probably take five friends and supper afterwards to force me to spend £50 to sit, uncomfortably, for three hours watching people pretending to do the same thing night after night. It's too much like marriage. Though maybe once a month and five minutes would be more accurate.
Anyway, I digress, I digress. Last night, instead of the book club I tried recently to set up and failed, I had the choir round. We love the choir. We treasure the choir. We pitch up once a week to a truly dismal school hall in Harlesden (you can call it College Park if you like) and sing in the room where they usually corral the after-school kids which only makes your heart break for Tifni and Lorelle and Sancho and Brittan [sic] and Oscar and Fatima, the inmates. It’s a little outbuilding, painted yellow and more like a prison camp than a school, despite the gay paintings and primary colours and boxes of toys. Everywhere there are rules; Laminated A4s saying: Do not, Do not, Do not. Primary Care Workers and Health & Safety Workers and Key Workers and Big Capital Letters about when the dosh is due and firm edicts on being late to pick up Bramley, who will presumably rot, - in this garish Lego hell if you’re a tad tardy. God, god, god. Nobody sends their kid to after school care from choice. This much is clear. Borstal for babies…
And we sing there. Five basses on a good night, though now we’re down to three, one of whom has the memory and concentration of a stickle brick due to prolonged drug use. Seven tenors on a good night – three of them women, one of whom is lonely girl here. Tenor ladies. Nothing to do with incontinence and everything to do with having a low voice and singing like a bloke. However, I don’t sound like a bloke – if only, if only. There’s Gav and Wiskey with their polished mahogany baritones, notes rolling off their tongues like melted caramel, and there’s me – home made castanet of gravel in a paper cup; scratchy paper lining the bottom of a budgie’s cage; growl of bear with a bad cold. We sing low, we ladies, but it's not sweet. The other two can get up as far as Alto – but there are already four or five of them, smugly singing away, secure in their harmonies. But me – no I’m firmly one-octave Annie and I admit, just as in life, sometimes I merely mouth the words, but nothing, nothing, meaningful comes out. There’s a bunch of sopranos, too. Bitches. With the best hair. Trilling away up there, never missing a chance to soar and swoop and show off their range and scale. One is a little shrill, admittedly. But old groaner here who still reads music at the All Cows Eat Grass level and couldn’t pick middle C out of two Ds on a report card is not one to criticize – people in glass houses and all that….
Supper, then. The reason? Well we all love the choir, love the people, love the conductor, love singing, would love some new recruits, aren’t keen on the venue, and mostly love the songs. Mostly. We thought it would be nice to kick around a few ideas, eat, and have a bit of a singsong.
‘Who says that?” Says one of the Youth as I stirred the pot of Spanish meatballs with chorizo to serve with the horseradish mashed sweet potatoes – unfamiliar with the language of the fair land of Planet Lonely.
‘What?’ I say, similarly bemused by the world of Youth.
‘Have-a-singsong? Is that even a verb?’
I don’t think Youth would thank me, at this point, for a lesson in grammar and the difference between doing words and naming words – this Youth got a 2:1, after all in Latin American Studies and speaks three languages imperfectly. ‘It’s a perfectly normal thing to say,’ I protest, instead.
‘Who has singsongs?’ He’s incredulous.
‘I do. We do. Scottish people for instance. The Irish. The Welsh. If you were true to your real Scottish roots instead of waving around that flag of your father, you’d be singing too.’
Youth is delighted, nay overjoyed that Arabs don’t sing socially.
And so later, when seven of us – three tenors, one soprano, two altos, no basses – are crushed around the kitchen table talking about things we like singing, and burst into an impromptu round of Stevie Wonder, sounding, it has to be said, very Scottish, as in authentic Scottish-on-the-way-home from the pub, plastered, tuneless, I can actually hear the eyes of Youth rolling back in their appalled head, in the room next door.
Then we sing summertime, in a three-part harmony and begin to sound more like ourselves: a barrister, a cranial osteopath. a ceramicist, a painter and a graphic designer, a hypnotherapist and lonely girl – but for the duration of the song, just a choir – pretty darn, melodiously, vocal group sex, good together.
Youth came into the kitchen momentarily, took a glass of water and left.
Pointedly closing the door.