Wednesday, 16 March 2011

That's quite enough of that 1

Jeremy waved his baton in what he hoped was an implacable but encouraging manner. He wanted the orchestra to stop messing about with Beethoven but he didn’t want them to slip into a slough of despond and wander off for cigarette and a whinge like they usually did.

It was always the same with amateurs. They had even less patience than talent. They couldn’t abide the noise they made, and grew angry at their own incompetence. And then they blamed Jeremy for putting them through it.

The fiddles scraped, the horns bellowed and farted, the woodwind shrieked, the percussion clattered and banged, the harpist, who should have been sitting it out, caught her fingers in her own strings and caterwauled with pain. Somewhere Beethoven was spinning in his grave. Jeremy stolidly slapped out the beat with his stick, looking stern and purposeful for a few bars before segueing insincerely into cheery and optimistic grins. Nobody believed him, on either side of the podium.

True, he hadn’t made the Philharmonic; his compositions mouldered unfinished in the box room; his wife no longer asked him how his day had gone. But, he was conductor and director of the Cincinnati Senior Citizens’ Orchestra and, surely, he was worthy of some respect. He was bringing music into these geriatric morons’ lives, wasn’t he?

Finally, he could take it no longer. He threw his baton to the ground and pounded on the podium with his fists, “Enough, enough, you tone-deaf cretins!” he screamed. “Pigs in the abattoir are more tuneful than you are!”

They looked up at him, askance, as with one more wild-eyed shriek, he rushed from the hall.

Then, cautiously at first and then with increasing vigour, they began to pick out “I’m just wild about Harry.”

Friday, 11 March 2011

Knocking at Death's door 4

“Go back, please,” urged St Peter, “You have so much yet to give the world. Soon enough it will find itself bereft of your unparallel generosity of spirit, your acute sensitivity and towering intellect. But that time is not now. Too many people depend on you. And more will come to benefit from your wisdom, your guidance and your drive. Too many hearts will break. Too many lives will fracture. Too little light will be shed where it is needed. No, you must go back. You will be too sadly missed.”

“You mean there’s been some kind of mistake?” Arkwright, a florid man from the North Riding, gave the celestial gatekeeper one of his characteristic beetle-browed glares.

“You’ve been called before your time,” repeated Peter with the patience of a saint. “The world needs you more than we do, presently.”

“I’ve paid for the bloody funeral,” protested Arkwright, looking down askance at his gown and wondering whether Hubbard and Sons, Funeral Directors, Harrogate had cut a few corners on the generous provision he’d made for his send off.

“What you have to offer humanity is beyond price,” soothed the Saint. “You’ve never been wrong in seventy years, have you? They need you.”

“Bloody pencil pushers,” Arkwright huffed, as he turned back and hauled his portly form down into the lower cloud cover. “Need a rocket up their backsides.”

“They’ll only send him back again,” observed the angel Gabriel

“He’s bound for the basement, actually,” Saint Peter explained, ticking Arkwright off the list.

“But if he insists on turning up here, I thought he should climb up twice to hear the news.”

“Isn’t that rather unkind?”

“For the first time in his life, he’s going to put a smile on someone’s face,” replied Saint Peter.

And, yes, how the cherubim chortled.