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Ask Alice, with Alice McVeigh

On rodents, requiems and bow restorers,
with classical music agony aunt ALICE McVEIGH

Ask Alice

? 'Dear Alice,

Just wondered whether you read Michael Wright's fascinating property column 'C'est la folie' in The Telegraph? His latest postings -- Rehearsal? More like a reversal and Could this be my requiem? -- are all about a visit to France by a choir from England called the Bloomsbury Singers, and his own exploits accompanying this group on the organ. (To quote: 'A voice in my head begins to gargle: my organ-playing is only marginally better than my tennis.')

As with some of the whackier scenarios in Ask Alice, the place names in Wright's column are clearly made up: Le Rodat, for example, is a (hugely) thinly disguised version of Les Rodents.

I happen to know, though, that there's very little other embroidery in Wright's story, because I was there! I can tell you, for example, that the concert included some amazing solo clarinet playing by Janet Hilton, and that the conductor Wright refers to as an 'uncompromising taskmaster' is none other than John Poole, who returned to Europe recently from Bloomington, where he was visiting professor of conducting.

Your readers may like to know that Michael Wright is currently training for the British Indoor Rowing Championships, in aid of Help for Heroes: a cause we can all feel proud to support.


Ask Alice

Alice Dear K2,

I read Wright's latest, upon reading yours, and I thought it hilarious. (Don't normally even read property columns, to be honest, and hugely bored with the whole UK-or-US-expat-reinterprets-the-French-natives motif. I even think that, should any English-speaking bozo now move into Provence, that said natives are fully justified in hitting him/her over the head with a stick.)

However, this guy is funny, British and good!!! I loved the column, and recommend it to everyone.


Ask Alice

? 'Dear Alice,

Can't believe that this happened, and hope and pray that it turns out all right for the bow-restorer and all his clients. I mean, haven't we all fallen asleep on trains with our instruments or bows?
Muso, London

Ask Alice

Alice Hi Muso,

Well, not myself (yet!!!!) but I'll never forget the time when the leader of my string quartet (whose ancient Italian violin is valued at over 90,000 pounds) turned to me and said, on the train, 'My fiddle's next to you, right?' and I had to say (having been earnestly brought up at my mother's knee to speak the truth) that it was not.

I never knew a human face could look green before.

Nor have I ever seen anyone telephone the National Gallery (where the 4tet had been performing) so fast before ... (Whether the security guard was right or wrong to joke: 'We were thinking about burning it for firewood', I leave it to yourself to determine.)

However, my leader's promptness in buzzing off the Kent-bound train and swiping another, heading back towards London, was certainly noteworthy, and should indeed have qualified him for the semifinals in the 400-metres.

Anyway, I feel hugely sorry for the bow-maker/restorer, who was robbed.

Of course, he should have bunged the case between his legs (or under his arm) but -- let's face it -- bowmakers and instrument-makers are soulful, gentle, well-meaning creatures who think the best, on the whole, of humankind. I'm sure Mr Oxley never imagined, in his worst nightmare, that the case containing eleven valuable bows would be stolen from an overhead luggage rack as he drowsed off -- and 99 out of 100 times, he would have been right.

For his sake -- and for the sake of everyone concerned -- I hope that the case is returned, preferably with the bows in it ...

Yours, hoping,

Copyright © 22 October 2010 Alice McVeigh, Kent UK

Ask Alice




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