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Portrait of Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Well...










Brassica was stressed.  She’d fed the twins,

Castor and Pollux, and had supervised their

geography project on social difference, of

which they knew very little.  Pollux

had written that poor people lived in houses

with numbers, so she had to correct that by

reminding him that The Duke of Wellington

had lived at Number One, London.  She decided

to leave the battle over music practice to her husband.

He had been instructed to be home by 6.30pm so that she

could make a hasty exit, complicated somewhat by indigestion,

and head to her latest evening class.

Cosmo’s headlights swept over the gravel drive and she zoomed

out of the porch, like a bat out of Hades,shouting, There’s some venison

casserole in the AGA, darling.

She threw her music case, containing her signed copy of Gareth Baloney’s

latest choral songbook: Sing Something Simple, into the back of the sports

car and drove off, spraying her husband with a tsunami of small pebbles.

Brassica was heading for the church hall, where a group of tone deaf-

if not yet totally moribund females of varying ages and elderly men who

had once been choristers in a dim and distant past were tuning up.

Slightly late, she breathlessly slipped into her seat on the front row,

tramping  on Lucinda’s sheet music, and began to shrug her shoulders

to release the  tension of the day.

Sopranos only! commanded Poskett, the choirmaster.

He had bought into some kind of national franchise which aimed to

encourage Britain to expand its collective diaphragm.

Me-me-me-me-me, intoned Brassica, sliding down the scale in a

diva-like glissando.

Okay, notices first.  Geoffrey, the choirmaster, closed the lid of the piano

and nodded to a woman with her glasses on a cord, who happened to be

the once-elected choir secretary.


I won’t take long– several people exchanged glances- but I

just wanted to say that next week’s rehearsal, just before our

concert in the Albert Hall, will be at 6pm and not 6.30.  The coach

will leave at 3.30pm. Ladies will wear floor-length black

skirts and white blouses, with no ostentatious jewellery, or pungent

perfumes.  Do I make myself clear?

She droned on for a while and Brassica thought that she could have

had fifteen minutes more at home to digest her supper.  Her attention

was wandering as to how she was going to induce her husband to come

home even earlier, when she knew that he had a large contract to deal

with the following week.

Right, now that you have warmed up, let’s take it from the top, suggested

Geoffrey, playing an arpeggio with a flourish.

Brassica picked up her book which had slid under her seat and took

out her Mozart Geburthaus pencil.  Page three:  Hark all ye harpies of the

night! Begone!  

But, attendez une minute... She lingered over the preface page so that the

second soprano behind her could see that she had a signed copy.  Then, to

her horror, she noticed that someone had inserted a comma in purple

flowpen, after the ‘Something’ on the title on the front cover, thus defacing

her treasured score:

Sing Something, Simple.

Brassica was furious.  She suspected that the woman behind her was the

culprit, as Brassica had glared at her the previous week, for holding onto a

final minim ad infinitum, nay- nauseam.  She could hardly sing with the

recommended Italian open vowels, for inner rage.

No! Geoffrey looked over the top of his glasses directly at her. I want you to

lean  on the  key word in the phrase.  Aspirate the ‘h’ of harpies.  Seconds,

show the firsts how it is done.

H-h-harpies, they trilled, vibratos causing sound waves to ripple through

Brassica’s body.


That was the limit!  Brassica left immediately the rehearsal was over.  She

was not going to return to be humiliated and anyway, long black skirts and

white blouses were so not on trend.  Gareth Baloney was wrong.  Not

everyone could sing and so she wasn’t going to spend any more of her

time and/or subscription fees in order to oil the path to a knighthood for

Baloney and his visions of a harmonious angelic community which would

prefigure the New Jerusalem.

As she left, she crossed her name off the list for coach transportation.

When she finally barged into her kitchen, she flopped onto the stool by the

marble-topped island unit and sighed, Are the kids in bed?

What’s wrong, sweetie? her husband asked, pouring her a large glass of


Don’t call me that diminutive, she snapped.  I’m not Michelle Obama.

Is that Merbecke? she enquired rudely.

Her husband ignored such testiness.  It was probably her hormones.  It

always was.  He glanced at the label: Malbec, I think. The kids have finished

their geography projects and I listened to their music practice. I went over

their Latin exercises on the vocative and made sure that they put their

pencil cases and calculators in their rucksacks – I mean, satchels.

It was then that she saw the offending purple Flowpen lying to one side.

The twins were becoming as pedantic as that old buffer of a Latin teacher,

Mr Snodbury.  Ridiculous name! she muttered to herself as she drained

her glass without savour.  Oh well, dropping out of the concert was

no big deal. How could she learn to sing bel canto with a Yorkshire

choirmaster whose vowels were as flat as his whippet was probably

narrow.  Mind you, Lesley Garrett had managed.

She just needed the right teacher.