Tuesday, 31 May 2016

Just Going to Leave this Here...

  A stooped, watery eyed New Yorker used to buy his programmes from me at Covent Garden in the early eighties. I asked if he would be coming to the new production of Norma
  He looked alarmed as he answered, 'Oh, no. I saw Ponselle as Norma at the Met in nineteen twenty-seven.  That woman's glory ruined opera for me forever, just when I was getting started with it.'


Monday, 30 May 2016

Classic Cars

  There was a classic car rally in Aldeburgh today. Down where the ice-cream van is parked during the summer.  The one Coochie Maltman used to deal from. I thought at first he might be a freemason, noticing the sideways-on handshakes going across the Mr Whippy counter. But, no, as Gerard explained, Coochie was your man if you wanted something buzzier with your cornet than a flake. 'And whatever the working class versions are of chopped pistachios or raspberry coulis, sweets.'
  There was a Vauxhall Zephyr among the cars, like the one my dad used to own before his driving was legal, insured and under the limit. I thought how compact it was.  Dad's had looked vast to my six-year-old self. And how primly it seemed to be sitting up on its wheels. Dad's had brooded languorously. 
  Car owners milled around thanking each other for coming and saying not to forget such and such a date in such and such a place for the next meet up. The numerical breakdown of specific models represented reminded me of the hierarchy in a ballet company. The many: the corps de ballet. The few: the soloists. The one: the prima ballerina assoluta. At the rally were many Morris Minors and Minis. There were fewer sports cars: a TR7, for example, or a Ford Mustang. And there was the one: a white 1960 Cadillac Eldorado Seville. 

                            Was too in awe to take a pic of the one today...

Sunday, 29 May 2016

The Bookless Book Launch in Metrodeco

 Link to my nicely book, again...

  Mendelssohn had his Songs without Words, so I can I have book launches without books - events at which I read from my forthcoming e-book, natch. 
  The first for My Tutu Went AWOL! was on Thursday at Metrodeco in Brighton. My rider included eats and drinks from the exceptional Metrodeco menu.  Nicely!  The event was well attended and people listened closely while I read, gamely following me wherever I went off-piste. 
  'One minute we're in Iraq, the next you're at a convent bun fight being ticked off by the Mother Superior for telling her the facts of life,' heckled Metrodeco co-owner Maggie Morgan. She then truly made my evening by requesting an encore of the off-piste material.
 Do you remember the time I circumvented Therese, soprano, giving encores at our shared recital?  Read that little story again here...
  For those of you not wishing to follow the link, here's a recap. My mother never follows a link, can I just say, seeing them as a cross between a ouija board and the live rail on the underground.   Anyway, Therese and I had shared the hire costs of the venue that night and were splitting the takings from the door. In the interval Therese decreed that as I had pulled in only two members of my family compared to her eighteen 'fully external' opera-loving gays, then she must sing more material than must I in the second half. If I insisted on singing all my planned programme, she would go to town with the encores.  To prevent Therese singing "I Feel Pretty" I immediately agreed to pocket little more than the price of my bus fare, a kebab and a tin of ready mixed Pina Colada. 
  Some months later, when we performed together at the book launch in Lower Chipping On-the-Wold, the question of encores never arose. Therese didn't even make it to the end of her planned programme.
  I had convinced myself that the launch had been for one of the fab Deborah Moggach's early novels - hark at me! - but when I emailed Ms Moggach to verify, she replied sweetly saying that it wasn't and that she was sure she would remember what I was describing.
  Therese and my contribution to the event should really only have been either as amuse bouche or as those last few petits fours put in a doggy bag. Except someone had put Therese in charge of the whole programme.
  I opened with my Madame Galina Ballet Star Galactica shtik, then got quickly changed into civvies to accompany Therese in a recital of opera arias. A lovely, long recital of opera arias: "Ah, Forse Lui", "Casta Diva", "Un Bel Di", "O Mio Babbino Caro", "Vissi D'arte" and "Klange der Heimat".  
  After "Un Bel Di", the host, Graham, walked onstage carrying the bouquet that had already been presented to me, for my Madame Galina turn. Thrusting the bouquet into Therese's half-parrying grasp he whispered, 
  'You have to stop now. We're having complaints from...from...the neighbours.'
  There had been a complaint, we later found out, but not from the neighbours. The author of the book under launch had pulled Graham to one side by the municipal tea service cupboard.
   'What on earth is going on? I haven't so much as opened my book yet but there's been all this comedy and operatic singing. What's next, a magician? The raffle? That lot out there putting their car keys into the onyx bowl by the door?'
  In the green room, meanwhile, Therese was saying, 'I didn't even finish the official programme I'd planned, let alone do any of the encores that would most likely have been wanted.'
  I said, 'You couldn't have done encores here, Therese. There are no gays at all out front, let alone your tame ones. Lower Chipping's a minorities-free zone. When the nettles, patchouli and madrigals brigade here apply for Arts Council funding and need to play the disadvantaged card, all they've got is Kelvin the nouveau-riche coachworks owner.  "Oh, but my dear government arts funding wallah, we're talking about the most dire need for outreach. Kelvin's just so utterly milk in first".' 


Thursday, 26 May 2016

Masterclass on Being Passive-Aggressive

  The letting agent asked me did I mind if the landlord put the rent up. 

Wednesday, 25 May 2016

He Travels the Fastest who Travels Alone

  My Proper Nan Silcox would use the line of Kipling quoted above when any of us complained of being lonely. 
  'Have you lost your library card? Lonely, indeed! Lonely having tea with Miss Bates? Lonely on travels with the Pickwick Club? Lonely at the Horse of the Year Show with Rupert Campbell-Black? And furthermore, let's remember that the banding together mentality is all lovely when it leads to The Huddersfield Choral, or the Massed Bands of the Coldstream Guards or those monkeys with the typewriters who are one day going to finish Timon of Athens - but not when it means the Gestapo or the WI, or when it leads to an epidemic of the illness of the moment...' 
  Serious illness was her thing - we had regular bulletins about complete strangers dying in lingering agony up at the Forty Houses in Gelligaer - and she had contempt for what she called illnesses of the moment. 
  'Fevers of the faddy!' 
  In her time she called AIDS an illness of the moment. ADHD, alzheimers, mad cow, bird flu and narcolepsy were all illnesses of the moment. Had she been in Kaffa when the flea-ridden Mongols routed the Italian merchants there in 1346, she would very likely have called the resulting bubonic plague epidemic an illness of the moment. 
  'Oh, yes, because a get together that starts out all joyful so often ends in disease running rampant. We're all going on a summer holiday...and coming back with dysentery. Tom Pearce, Tom Pearce, lend me your grey mare, all along, down along, out along lea, for I want for to go to Widecombe Fair with Bill Brewer, Jan Stewer, Peter Gurney, Peter Davy, Dan'l Whiddon, Harry Hawke, Old Uncle Tom Cobley and all... and we won't expect to see Bil, either of the Peters or Harry again after the cholera gets them on the boat swings.  After the Ball is Over...there were all those girls getting into carriages without their shawls properly draped and TB or not TB, that was the question.'
  She would draw herself up by the handbag, as she did. 'You make the best of your solitary circumstances, now.  Better to live by choice in a bedsit than by force in a leper colony.' 

  #traveltuesday #hetravelsfastestwhotravelsalone #kipling #lifehacks #life #illness #death 

Tuesday, 24 May 2016

The Milk-Skin Witch

  My brother couldn't stand the skin on custard or hot chocolate and would sit and cry until my mother scraped it off for him. My great aunt Blodwyn, when we went to stay with her, refused to allow in her house for the good skin to be scooped off and wasted.
  'Oh, stop your snivelling. Has nobody told you about the witch who comes in the night and searches for that skin you've shamefully wasted each time? She goes back to her house down where the mine used to be and stitches the skin to the other skins she's taken. Night after night stitching - and measuring to see from time to time. Singing hymns to herself. And when that patchwork skin is big enough she'll bring it back while everyone's sleeping and lay it over you - as your shroud, because you'll be found dead underneath it in the morning.'
  So easily my favourite relative. 

Sunday, 15 May 2016

If I had a Television, I'd only Shout at that Instead

  Being such a sagging trifle of tired this weekend, all I could was sit watching Agatha Christie mysteries on Youtube and shout along with them. In the midst of which something from The Body in the Library reminded me of how damaging laissez-faire attitude can be.
  Here's what I was shouting along with the various Marples and Poirots:

  Basil Blake once called Arthur a fossilised old b-u-g-g- etcetera. 
  I found a body. No, it's my body. I found it. In the quarry. 
  And we know fully well why she has her best nylons on, the silly great lump.
  Arthur just gets a little avuncular at tennis parties. You do understand, Jane? After all - I've got my garden. 
  A platinum blonde in our library!
  He called me Nemesis. "Let Justice Roll Down Like Water, and Righteousness Like an Everlasting Stream".
  Remember Edith: always a pointy little mountain and not a dumpy little hill. 
  Oh, dear me. I've been so terribly, terribly stupid and must telephone to Inch at once. 
  One sees so much evil, I fear, living in a village. 
  Grizelda...such an unfortunate name for a vicar's wife. 
  Mrs Church is a country woman - she'd know her mushrooms!
  Janet would explain quite convincingly how the mice had eaten the end of the cake and give herself away by smirking as she left the room. 
  You've got your central heating on.
  Now, Florrie Small, don't prevaricate. 
  I must advise you not to continue using your maiden name in the village.
  There was a lovely picture of the Cheviot murderer in the paper last Sunday. 
  That was stupid, very stupid. People don't put good heathrugs in dustbins. 
  I couldn't get her spangles out. 

  It was the the thing I shouted that reminded me of the dangers of having a laissez-faire approach. Except we're dealing not with spangles in this case, but with glitter.  Oh, and champagne! 
  We acts tried time and time again to make the executive producers of an international touring show do something when the booker they were going through stopped paying us. They did nothing. The booker then sacked our stage manager, who had been chasing him for unpaid monies more aggressively than had the rest of us, and instead employed someone with no experience of stage management. (But who he wanted to bum). Again, the executive producers did nothing. They were then sued for two thousand pounds by a theatre for the cost of repainting a stage 'after the forbidden use of both glitter and champagne being chucked about in the finale. We couldn't get the glitter out of the stage surface from being stuck on by the alcohol...'
  The executive producers paid. 
  Our dropped, properly trained stage manager would have known that, following earlier complaints, it was never champagne being used for the finale these days, it was carbonated water. 


Friday, 13 May 2016

Gerard Does it Again!

                              Gerard always denies that this is him...

 A violinist with the Britten-Pears Orchestra was selling two year's growth of her hair for three thousand pounds to a doll factory.
  I know: how totally previously unheard of. 
  He was sitting with two others at the table in the Cross Keyes one along from Gerard and mine, opposite where the orchestral members were sitting, each beadily making sure to get his or her money's worth from two jugs of Pimms. 
  Indicating the violinist with a jerk of his head, he said to his mates, 'She'll either be under the feeding or starving regime with the hair growing. She'll be going into the doll factory once every three months for the gimp, who has the hard on for all matters hairal, to go over it like a grooming primate. Then they put these soya-mong beans in a petri dish, add honey that's alive - you wouldn't believe how much that costs - and white beer that's exclusively brewed on the premises. They leave this mixture to do its thing, then drain off everything that's other than what the beans will have eaten, digested and shat out - in so far as that process can take place when there are no mouths, stomachs and colons of which to speak - and anoint her hair with it. She won't be able to wash this stuff out until right up to the time when they cut it to go in their freezer vault.'
  'Christ,' Gerard hissed to me. 'He is so that prematurely receding, tweed-wearing minor public school know all, who'll spend his gap year in Ipswich, flunk agricultural college and later ask his parents for a loan to buy a Thai bride. And at her first Thorpeness Fireworks they'll give her a sparkler, tell her it's a thing to write one's name in the air with it, and by the time - him holding her hand - they've half way through Mey-Mey Tirahlahlahchucham-hyphen-Cooper, she'll have set light to their matching Thai Buddhist cotton bead wristbands.' 
  He paraphrased Kipling. 'He writes in the air with a sparkler fastest who writes in the air with a sparkle alone.' 
  Then smirking at me, about to down the rest of his pint, he said. 'And now I've given you yet another hardon with my everything and the erudition, you can get another round in.' 
  It was actually his round, but who could tell him that? 

Thursday, 12 May 2016

Whatever the Opposite of 'Cherry' is, Adam Lord took Mine...


  Legendary variety producer Dougie Squires had always hoped to produce a Cinderella with the fairy cross-dressed but played straight. In 2013 he asked me to take on the role, saying,
  'I know you'll stick to the panto fairy code and not go beyond because I hear you're going legit on us!' 
  There were plans for me to play Norman in The Dresser; which eventually came to nothing as the rights to live performances of the play were frozen at the time the recent TV production was made, starring Sirs Ian McKellen and Anthony Hopkins.  
  When I play Dame, I decide which of my aunts or grandmothers the character most resembles and graft on her facial tics, speech patterns and gestures. For Sarah the Cook I imitated my aunt Sophia smoothing her girdle with the heel of her right hand from ribcage to belly button. As Mother Goose I used my Nancy Ak's holding back tears voice and her habit of suddenly breaking off mid-sentence to check the stitching on her coat buttons. And for the Cinderella Fairy I more or less played my Nan Silcox, my mother's mother. 
  I was talking about all this last night to Adam Lord, owner of ARL Coachworks. Link to the ARL Coachworks website I've just retired from the rounds of performing as Madame Galina on the circuit, and Adam was my last audience 'volunteer' at the Cafe de Paris.
  He was directly in my eyeline because he had (foolishly) swapped seats with another member of his party. 'He was there with his girlfriend, so didn't want to react too favourably to that fabulous blonde who got him up to dance.'  The fabulous blonde being Folly Mixture Ooh La Lou, Sarah Lou-Twist. 'So I was thinking I'd have some of that and swapped places with him. Never dreaming that what I'd actually end up dancing with was a bloke in a tutu.  I was massively uncomfortable being pulled up there. But I thought how I've been billy big bollocks moving seats and I had to go on with it.' 
  And the rest is history. He was classic. 'Like the cars I work on.  Boom-tish.'
  He's been Aston Martin approved in his time, and the cars he gets through his workshop these days are worth anything up to two and a half million. 'What I'm really about is feeding off a customer's passion for a car.'  
  On the ARL Coachworks site is this photograph of a client hugging Adam in gratitude. 

                                                Says it all, really

  'What make of car is that behind you both, apart from "blue"?' I asked.
  'Maserati Grand Sport.  But look how he's going in for the hug.  Gratitude. Not like you onstage, can I just flag that up?' No, you can't, Adam. 'I was working all hours on that Maserati.  Six a.m. till two a.m some days. The client was ringing me to check up on his baby - apologising for it being too late - at ten at night. I'd still have those four more hours to work on it. Because obviously we get the run of the mill cars to keep going - and that's all part of it - the runarounds. Insurance jobs. But when you get a car like that Maserati or a Lamborghini or Ferrari - I'd do those jobs for free. it's not always about money. You have to do one thing every day for just yourself. That's why I do the gym training and the skydiving. The skydiving, in part, to challenge myself physically while I still can. That's what my nan really made me appreciate: that you have to do things at times just because you love doing them. Though she didn't mean for me to get silly about it, obviously.  I've been there - getting myself seriously in debt.  That's where having to do those six a.m. to two a.m. working days started off. And I carry the habit on when the car is special enough. I suppose along with my nan's viewpoint there's also a bit of a generation thing to my thinking - I played for Arsenal under sixteens at a time where we wouldn't have dared swear at the ref. And when a celebrity had some kind of talent. Nowadays social media has a lot to answer for. We've had two millions plus worth of car in and there's been a photo on Instagram and we've had attention from it, and the car's only with us for a wing-mirror job.'
  He asked me not to quote something that he had said. 'Where I was telling you about the stamps on Lamborghinis so someone detailing one will always know what's what when they roll them back - that's fine. But not the bit just after it, please...'
  I agreed not to quote him. Look at me following my own Nan Silcox's advice:
  'Sometimes, Iestyn, you should save your tongue for licking the carbon off nan's coal straight out of the scuttle to cure your colic.' 

  I only didn't use that as the fairy in Cinderella because I couldn't make it into the required rhyming couplet. 



Monday, 9 May 2016

I Love a Library

  Therese, soprano, never uses a library. 'I pride myself on always buying my books.'
  Whereas I agree with Helene Hanff, who said that buying a book you haven't read is like buying a dress without trying it on. 'How do you know the dress will fit, Therese?'
  'I always know what's going to fit me, book-wisely speaking. I tune into asking the universe what it needs me to read for the greater good, go into the bookshop and find that I'm drawn to a department, then a section of carpet, then the particular shelf and there will book the book, in a sort of outline of almost light picked out from the others around it.'
  'But there are billions of books out there Therese, in umpteen shops, divided into squillions of bits of carpet and - '
  She was giving me her look: a nurse at my hospital bed telling me that the prognosis was less than ideal. 'Yes, but with me it's narrowed down quite a bit to begin with. I only ever buy books about the development of the soul.'
  She caught me smirking; the nurse's empathic smile snapped off. 'At least having purchased my books pristine, rather than borrowing them from one of your beloved libraries, I can be sure they've not been tainted with anyone else's snot, piss or jizz.'  
  She's right about being drawn to books. I'll be ever grateful to my book angel for Confessions of a Failed Southern Lady, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn and Augustus Carp, esq, By Himself.
  But I could never agree with her insistence on pristine. And while I'm not saying you should write in library books, I did love finding this in the margin of a James Lee Burke novel: 'That's the second time and counting you've used the periscope in the swamp analogy, calm the purple prose the fuck down already.'  
  Or this in a score of Tannhauser: 'Spiritual glow to the sound...verging on orgiastic tinge to the sound...forget any of the above here and take a bloody big breath like a stampeding horse.'
  And, finally, this in a an Agatha Christie: 'This is the link for you to donate to my crowdfunding campaign. Follow it. Donate. Don't make me have to tell you the all-clarifying clue you're missing in the family argument about that malachite table, bitches...' 


More on Budgeting

   Parties on the Cheap

  An actor mate read my blog entry about budgeting click here and said that it was all very well, but he shares a house with eight other actors, what about parties? 
  So, here we are.
  First, make it plain that you're either hosting a party or just providing the space. If you're hosting, you have to do more. 
  When I still liked more than four people I lived on the seventeenth floor of a Kennington high rise and had a fear of lifts. Oh, going off message here, will estate agents stop pointing to Cleaver Square as evidence for Kennington becoming gentrified of late? The square was at least already built when I was doing my paper round in ninety seventy nine, and might even be eighteenth century. Anyway, if I hosted a party while I was lift-phobic and living on the seventeenth floor, I had to take bags of shopping up to my flat in batches, leaving some hidden beneath the stairwell each time. Eight trips up and down for my flat-warming; which goes far to explain why I didn't have a television, my nan's kindly bequeathed complete Encyclopaedia Britannica or a door on the cleaning cupboard. And I quickly decided that for any future parties I would simply provide the space. 

  If you decide on hosting, however, Invite mainly single people. They won't drink to excess for fear of looking silly in front of a prospective pull.  The males, specifically, will also have potential performance anxiety, so you can get away with serving low alcohol shit to them. 
  Have lots of snacks for your guests to bloat themselves on. No-one need know they're Value brands if you put them out in bowls. If you have no bowls, buy Value tin foil and make ethniceque bowls out of that. Little ties to help keep your foil bowl's shape are ideal. Take the laces out of your trainers for this. No, not the ones you're wearing. If - and I'm not judging - you have only one pair of trainers, then appear at the party in your socks and make sure guests know why. 
  If you're simply providing the space, you won't need to lay on booze, of course. Like everyone else, you'll have your own stash of beers cradled in the crook of your arm like a baby at the sitting up by itself stage. I would have a tray beneath my bed with gin, tonic and ice on it; a foil-wrapped, sliced lemon in my breast pocket. Sometimes, today, I recreate this in my studio flat in Thorpeness, coming in from the balcony to refill my glass from the doings beneath the sofa, listening to Opera Live from the Met and reading Mapp and Lucia. Until I crouch to root beneath the sofa that one time too many, find that I'm too pissed to get back up again, so stay there dribbling through sing-along high notes down the arm of my IKEA Ullvi Ransta Dark sofa bed.
  When you're hosting, it's de rigeur to make a bowl of fruit punch.  Half fill a bowl (or suitable sink) with ice cubes, then add a bottle of Value vodka, the juice of one lemon, a tin of ginger beer and a Value carton of apple juice. Serve it with a desert spoon and never the traditional ladle - on a budget there can be no profligacy. 
  The above was always Mad Petra Thorne's way of making punch. She had the flat above the pub in Aldeburgh over a few summers in the nineties. I remember once getting to a party up at Petra's after last orders, and there was Gerard - remember Gerard?  Meet Gerard  He was pointing wide-eyed at the punch and making a throat-cutting gesture. 
  He later explained that Petra had been topping up the punch at intervals with boiled down Starburst, Babycham and Tip-Ex.  He offered me one of the miniatures he'd brought with him. 
  'The library have this brilliant thing just now, sweets,' he told me. 'Needing to get borrowing numbers up or something. They're either putting little specs signs on books saying: "Read me!"'; or decorating them with glitter-sprayed leaves, or - my full admiration to them - sellotaping these miniatures to the covers. I got so pissed last night I nearly started the Sophie Kinsella I'd taken out for the sixth time that day.' 

Sunday, 8 May 2016

The Age of I Don't Care to Remember

  Adam Greenford ticked me off for my post the other day about wanting to circumvent the dawn chorus with crushed temazepam on bird tables. Adam, aka Three Quarter Grown Lion, raises money for the R.S.P.B. and said that the wood pigeon was so close to me in the tree, it was probably picking up my vibe as I sat down with my early morning coffee and was joyfully welcoming me to the day.  
  Yes, well, yes, okay. 
  This reminded me of my Lower-Folding-in-the-Marsh Festival gigs over the years. The committee billetts me on erstwhile operatic soprano Joan Harmer-Wilkinson for hospitality. 
  Joan also likes to joyfully welcome me to the day; along with my post-gig drunk all the drinks hangover.
  'No, not that teaspoon, Iestyn, it won't stir as well as one - here - from the set I got as a second wedding present, after I finally pulled myself together to leave the ghastly Slovakian and married the chair of the Lower Folders grammar school Association. I still miss Graham. We were the oddest couple. He never knew that I was fully aware over the years how he would hide in the bigger shed with the flag up outside, to let his golf buddies knew he was in there available to them for whiskey and chat but out of pounce-range of his ever-loving wife. Oh, listen...lovely lovely music they're playing this morning on Classic FM. Strauss...ya da, da dee da...left foot for a Viennese Waltz, Joan, let's get it right. And round I go, la da dee dee da, upstage, where's my audience? la dum du dee dye, let's give the fleckerl a go for old time's sakes, as when I waltzed with the minor royalty, won't say who, du dye dum, here we go...ooh, Barney, no!!!  Bad dog, could have been a really nasty...oh, but that scream was close to top, top F, surely? We'll make a Queen of the Night of you yet, Joan. At the age of I don't care to remember. What? Iestyn, I couldn't help but scream just then when the bloody hound came so close to being trampled underfoot. Or to knocking me headlong into the organic only vegetable rack. Bad dog, by the way - basket! And actually - there's no maybe about any of it - I really did need to have been waltzing about to the lovely Strauss in the first place: it was "Roses from the South". Needs must. Oh, Elisabeth Schwarzkopf singing her operetta arias. Have I told you that time and time again people would tell me how much i sounded like her in my youth? Oh. I wrote her a letter - Dear Madame Schwarzkopf - asking for advice and enclosing a recording of me singing "An Die Musik".  On reel to reel tape, then, of course. You're all so lucky nowadays to be able to send out your recordings through the ether with the click of a mouse. Not to mention the blessings of self-touched up headshots, testimonials and autotune. I got a reply from Madame Schwarzkopf saying she wouldn't help me. Which I took to mean that I was beyond help, that I should just get going under my own steam. Oh. But that's the most important thing in life - we do our best with what we have. Can I remember "An die Musik" now, I wonder? Well, best way to find that out, Joan, would be to have a little sing through it. Malcolm just tuned the piano. I have to stand over him and lend him my extra pair of perfect-pitch blessed ears each time. It's become a thing over the years. No, don't shut the door behind me to the music room, please, I like to feel the space to project the voice. So many music scores!  I really must donate them all to an archive or something one day. Here's the Schubert. Correct specs. Not too much pedal: pedal in excess is simply not period. Du Holde Kunst...'
  Come back you cooing cunt of a wood pigeon, all is forgiven.

Friday, 6 May 2016

My Royal Society for the Prevention of Birds

                                                               Fuck off!

  Live in harmony with nature, we're told. Well, frankly, this is hardly a two way thing is it, birds?
  They may be all lovely in terms of the ecosystem, but they make way too much noise. What is with the little brown one sitting shrieking on a single pitch like a car alarm for minutes on end? Or the wood pigeon with its stuttering cuckoo call? True, the blackbird's song catches the heart. But, really, some of the rest of the little peepers..
  People buy recordings of ambient birdsong. I'd rather buy a recording of ambulance sirens. 
  I'm a city boy that's moved to the country. It was quieter in my bedsit in Camden than it is here in Thorpeness. In Camden the only real noise pollution was the girl in the bedsit next door to mine having Wagnerian multiple orgasms. On her own. It was a relief - ho ho! - when her boyfriend stayed over. Then it was three grunts, him shouting how Dumbledore had trusted him to see this thing through - and her thwarted sighs. 

  The R.S.P.B has sent round information about what to put out on bird tables in the colder months. I've adapted the recipe. One part nuts, one part pumpkin seeds, twenty-five parts crushed temazepam. 
  That should give the tweety fuckers Dawn Chorus.