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
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
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
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.