June 10th 2011, A charming and merry little boy called Stephen Emmanuel was christened here on Sunday, having come all the way from New York for the privilege. His delightful Mum and Dad had assembled a party, and borrowed three of my “wedding hats” to mark the celebration. It was all good fun, though his baptism card contained a full frontal nude shot of him wearing his new-born clamp, for which I think he won’t thank them in fifteen years time!
I had my little row of blue stitches out this morning, and after a check up in the hospital have been signed off as recovered, so that is a relief. This week I was supposed to be in London for two nights, but on Tuesday our morning train was stopped at Kettering, and we were advised to return north, after a “security alert” closed the lines into London, so I stayed in the same seat and this time went backwards through the countryside! Poor David had to pick me up again, only to take me once more to Chesterfield station early on Wednesday.
Two very busy days were divided by a charming piano recital in St John’s SS, by an Australian virtuoso, Alexander Boyd, who played real lollipop favourites, – Chopin Mendelssohn, and Ravel. – like the Bee’s wedding, and the lovely things in the Tombeau de Couperin. I came out, as usual, thinking, – well, I wish I had practised more, but would never in a million years have sounded like that! A small but appreciative audience with many of his students there I think. He was born in 1975. I sat in the cheapest unallocated seats, but my immediate neighbour in the more expensive ones, 2.6 ft away, turned out to be David Dimbleby. I felt like asking him a question!
I thought, as I listened to the lyrical recital, of Barbara Thorley, our music teacher at Stroud High, who died on Ascension Day last week, June 2nd, and who taught me most of what I know about music and singing. It seems so unexpected that she had died, and I regret not visiting her for years, as I promised in every Christmas letter we exchanged over the years. She was 83, and had the prettiest handwriting of anyone I have ever known. That at least never changed, although she stopped playing the piano after a stroke some years ago, and had battled with breast cancer off and on since her early sixties.
She took us, in the Senior Choir to win the gold cup at the Cheltenham music festival in 1969, and though I was never more than an average voice, it was a moment to remember, when we beat off everyone of the adult choirs to gain the prize. ( The cup was later stolen from the school front hall trophies cabinet, but that is another story.) I hope to go to her funeral in Painswick next Monday, combining it with a visit to my Dad, who turns 85 on June 16th.
Barbara’s death further adds to the depressing toll of loved ones, family and friends we have lost this year, more than a dozen altogether. So many people are slipping off stage, never to make another entrance, and take all their talent and brilliant individuality with them. I don’t know how I feel, except to realise that one has to grip on and enjoy life to the full, however painful or irritating or exhausting it is. Life is meant to be lived! I think of that great song from Gypsy, “Some people . . .“
Now I must go and take my mother shopping, 89 and still keen to live in the world, not in her living room, despite general frailties and a rather patchy short-term memory!