1569. A birthday treat

(The closing sentence for this story was suggested by Alex of Alex Raphael.)

Now that I’m older (I should perhaps say “old) I look back at my childhood and marvel. There were four of us, Natalie, Bevin, Cordelia, and myself. Our parents didn’t have much to go on. Dad was injured in the First World War and was frequently in hospital. It was his knees. Our mother made ends meet by cleaning other people’s houses. But us kids never went without.

When I say “never went without” I don’t mean luxuries like ice cream and vacations in Paris, I mean we had enough food (usually), and clothes to keep us warm, and school stuff. I realize now that our parents frequently went without themselves.

It was my eighth birthday. We never got much for our birthday, except perhaps a special cake our mother would bake, or maybe some homemade party hats, or some oranges. It was always a treat. On this particular birthday all four of us kids were messing around down at the creek, and we heard our mother call “Yoo-hoo, children!” It was a hot summer’s day. It was cool messing down in the creek.

“Yoo-hoo, children! Yoo-hoo!”

“What is it?” we called.

“Yoo-hoo children! I have a treat! It’s a watermelon!”

A watermelon! We’d never had a watermelon before! We started running immediately.

1568. Dangling carrot

(The opening sentence to this story was a comment made earlier on this blog. Nitin suggested it could make an interesting opening sentence, so here it is!)

“Sometimes they dangle a carrot in front of you only to stick it up your bum.” Oswald was surveying the carrots at the supermarket. His wife, Kitty, had already filled a bag with half a dozen carrots for purchase. The sign said:

CARROTS! 30 cents each. Two for only 65 cents.

“They do that all the time,” said Oswald. “Trick the dumb buyer into believing there’s a bargain. They dangle a carrot in front of you only to stick it up your bum.”

Kitty emptied her bag of six carrots back into the supermarket carrot bin. It wasn’t the price she was worried about. It was the thought of eating a carrot that had… that had… you know what I mean.

1567. Jury service

Warren had one regret in life: he wanted to be called to jury service. All his friends, at some time in their lives, had been called up. Names were selected at random (apparently) from electoral rolls. Warren felt deep down that his time would come.

He didn’t want to sit on a jury that tried piffling little nothings. There’s nothing interesting about a woman called Mabel sneaking cannabis tucked in her pantyhose into a prison. There’s nothing interesting about a twenty-year old five-fingered discount personage called Norman swiping vacuum cleaner bags from a two dollar shop.

No! Warren wanted to sit on a jury that tried murder, and not just any murder, but a murder trial that went on for weeks. Something complex, with lots of intrigue and blood. That would certainly add a spice to his life.

Such an invitation to possibly spice up his life came last Thursday. Warren nonchalantly, almost absent-mindedly, went out to his mail box on the side of the road. There was a letter for him with a logo at the top that he did not recognize. Yes! He was summoned to jury service! He should make an appearance in court next week. Goodness! At last! At last!

So as we come to bury Warren today let us remember that he saw that his lifelong ambition was about to be fulfilled: jury service. This fulfilment was the last thing he saw before being hit by a passing car as he stood too far out on the road engrossed in reading his mail.

1566. Cherry clafoutis

Bonnie worked as a chef in a prestigious restaurant in town. Her husband, Alex, was an accountant. Because Bonnie worked all day in a kitchen, Alex did most of the cooking at home unless of course it was a very special occasion, in which case Bonnie would “pull out all stops”.

Because fair is only fair, Bonnie paid for the house finances to be looked after by a professional accountant, and not by Alex himself. It was a happy arrangement.

They had been married for fourteen years. All was right with the world; at least it was until Alex one day got a call from the accountant.

“What is this three week cruise for two in the Caribbean?” Alex had no clue, but with further surreptitious investigation discovered that Bonnie had planned a cruise with the bellboy from the restaurant’s hotel. In short, she was leaving Alex. The day of her departure arrived. How would Bonnie break the news?

Bonnie had announced she would cook. “Let’s make it a special occasion right out of the blue,” she announced. “I shall cook.” Alex wondered if she didn’t have a special ingredient in mind.

At the end of the delectable feast, after gorging on a second helping of cherry clafoutis, Bonnie declared that she had a wonderful announcement. She had planned a special surprise. The two of them were to go on a luxury three week cruise in the Caribbean. “We’ve always wanted to do that, darling. Our dream has come true!”

It was only then that Alex wished he hadn’t laced her cherry clafoutis with weed killer.

1565. Hitting the right note

Xiu Cheung was a fabulous concert pianist. She had appeared on the world stage at the age of fourteen and had never looked back. At first it was Chopin and Liszt. By the time she was in her mid-twenties she had married her manager and was in demand throughout the world to play well-nigh impossible piano concertos with every significant orchestra on the planet.

The utter apex of her art was reached in Strasbourg. She played Prokofiev’s Third Piano Concerto. It was an unbelievable success.

Never had this concerto been tackled with such energy, such grace, such delicacy, such boldness, such… There was not a human emotion that Xiu Cheung didn’t wring from the music. The finale was as if a ten-tonne bulldozer had crashed onto the stage in a spectacle of utter destruction. The standing ovation lasted more than twenty minutes. From where did Xiu Cheung derive such energy? Such desire? How could anyone be driven to such passion?

Of course, it helped that her manager-husband was sitting dead as a doornail in the Green Room with Xiu Cheung’s nail scissors plunged deep in his chest.

1564. Embedded fossil

When Vernon nonchalantly picked up a largish rock at the beach he had little idea the ripples it would cause amongst the country’s paleontologists. The rock had a fossil in it. Vernon had always been interested in fossils. In fact his wife was an amateur paleontologist who worked part-time at the local museum. The museum had a fairly large collection of fossils and the collection was regarded as of major importance throughout the land.

Vernon never said much to anyone about his find. In fact, he took very little notice of it himself. The rock sat in a bucket in the cupboard with other bits of rock and bone of seeming unimportance. It wasn’t until his wife complained, that Vernon decided to “clean up the mess in the cupboard.”

Going through the buckets of stuff Vernon noticed that a couple of the rocks had interesting embedded fossils, including the rock he had found at the beach. He put them aside for his wife to take to the museum and have them checked out by Dr Faustin Hvar, the head palaeontologist at the museum. Dr Faustin Hvar was on the verge of a paleontological breakthrough. He led the world in his field and would probably know instantly if Vernon’s precious rocks were of any value.

“Take them yourself,” said Vernon’s wife. “I’ve better things to do than run around taking insignificant relics to Dr Faustin.”

What happened next would change the course of paleontology. Vernon took his bucket to the museum. “What is it you want?” asked Dr Faustin Hvar. Vernon could tell the man wasn’t interested. He was cold and aloof. He may have been the world’s leading expert but as a kindly human being he was the pits. “Hurry up,” said the doctor, “I haven’t got all day.”

Vernon saw red. He reached into his bucket and grabbed the embedded fossil rock he had found on the beach.

“This!” shouted Vernon. “This is for having a two-year affair with my wife!” He threw the rock at the palaeontologist. It hit him in the head and the world was bereft of its leading expert. Who would have guessed that such an insignificant fossil could change the course of paleontology so drastically?

Music 269-283: An Eighth Little Suite in Fifteen Sketches

Hi Everyone

Here is the Eighth Little Suite in Fifteen Sketches – both audio and printable – for the pianoforte. There are 11 little suites in total.

I called these “sketches” because that is what I intended them to be. About two years ago or so I was taking a music class of 14 year olds (male and female). They were being introduced to all sorts of music. I played them “The Moldau” by Smetena because it tells a story of a river: a spring, rapids, a hunting party, a wedding, deep still water, the ocean, etc. They looked at me puzzled. How does it sound like river rapids? Why would that be a wedding party? and so on. They had little inkling of music on its own. Music was to be accompanied by a film/video/dancing… I thought that these 154 sketches might help teachers to paint pictures without pictures!

Also some piano teachers might find some of the sketches handy to help develop different pianistic techniques in their pupils… And on that note – I must admit, even though it might not sound like it, that one of today’s sketches A little two step with Scott (Joplin) I found the hardest to play out of all the 154 pieces!!

Click on a title in the first list to listen, and click on a title in the second list to download the written music.

Thanks

Click on a title to listen
1. Sibling squabbles
2. Late afternoon
3. Frolicking Scarlatti
4. Horse riding
5. A little two step with Scott
6. The magician
7. Joviality
8. Military Parade
9. Waves on rocks
10. Picking flowers
11. Skiing
12. Skimming stones
13. Grandpa’s old clock
14. View from the hill
15. Still squabbling

Click on a title to download the written music
1. Sibling squabbles
2. Late afternoon
3. Frolicking Scarlatti
4. Horse riding
5. A little two step with Scott
6. The magician
7. Joviality
8. Military Parade
9. Waves on rocks
10. Picking flowers
11. Skiing
12. Skimming stones
13. Grandpa’s old clock
14. View from the hill
15. Still squabbling