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Ask Alice, with Alice McVeigh

Trouble with emails this week
for classical music agony aunt, ALICE McVEIGH ...

Dear Sir, Madam, or gender undefined,

This is an official message from ILAA, the international league of agony aunts, formed to regulate the operation of agony worldwide.

It has been drawn to our attention that you, Alice McVeigh, are now practising as an agony aunt. Such a proceeding without an ILAA licence is prohibited by the laws of 1189 countries worldwide (except Scandanavia). Furthermore, operating without a licence is an offence in many member countries, with penalties ranging from mere fines to near-permanent decapitation (for repeat offenders, in both Manchuria and Zimbabwe) while, in some of the more basic sort of Arab countries, you, Alice McVeigh, as an unlicensed agony aunt, might run the risk of having your ears and tongue cut out!!!

Luckily, all that you, Alice McVeigh, need to avoid this somewhat less than satisfactory outcome is a license! Yes, one of our licenses, recognised worldwide as smooth, soft and ideal for the job in hand is provided as part of our basic membership package, as is a free, gratis and entirely complimentary subscription to our monthly journal, Agony, shmagony! The entire package costs only $1557 (excluding tax) per calendar year and, should you decide to subscribe today, you, yes you, Alice McVeigh, will receive a free binder with part one!!!!!!!!!!!!!

You heard it here first!!!!!!!!!! Yes!!!!!!!!!!!!!! A free binder with part one!!!!!!! But hurry now while stocks last!!! This unrepeatable offer may never recur !!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

All major credit cards accepted.

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Hell, any old card accepted!!!!!

A Ant, Licensing officer, ILAA

Dear Keith,

Can you not pass on any more ravings from the ILAA???? Also from the bods from penile-extensions-while-you-wait, not to mention the berk from Nigeria who is desperate for me to send him my bank details in return for hosting his non-existent fortune?

I mean, life is short.


[Alice: nothing can be done until Keith returns from Nigeria next week.
Regards, Basil]

Ask Alice

Dear Alice,

I saw on TV recently that the brains of fish are now thought to be large enough for them to suffer pain when they're killled and eaten.

Do musical instruments suffer pain? And, if so, how can I alter my technique so that my oboe is least afflicted?

Thanks for your wonderful column -- I read it every week.


Dear George,

Thanks for yours, always glad to hear from the fans (both of you, in fact).

And I am here to tell you that -- amazingly enough -- you have come to the right place with your fish question.

As it happens, I am one of Bromley's most noted tropical fish experts, passionately welcomed in fish emporia throughout the southeast due to my unerring ability to spot (and buy) seemingly healthy guppies, neon tetras, platties and catfish, all of which, without exception, are found upon entering my tank to be suffering from the latter stages of TB, and/or a bizarre wasting disease, not dissimilar to the Plague, which causes them to go belly-up a couple of days later.

But suffering? Nonsense. They all pass away with a cheery song on their lips, and a chirpy wave of their tailfins. I can tell by their mere expressions that they have ascended, as one fish, to tropical fishy heaven, where, as I tell my five-year-old Rachel, nobody is practising the cello in the same room as their tank and the skies are not cloudy all day.

(This, by the by, has bugger all to do with collecting my nine remaining tropical fish in a water bag and presenting them free, gratis and complimentarily back to Pets Shop Petts Wood last week, saying, 'All right, I give up; you may give this to the press, if you wish. Just take the rotten little sods back before they corpse on me.')

I am currently planning a series of lectures on common diseases of tropical fish, and boy are my goldfish perky!

(Sorry, what was your question again?)
Kind regards,

Ask Alice

Dear Alice,

Thank you for your advice on IVF. I have ignored it and taken up the viola and, as a result, both my wife and I are now pregnant and expecting a string quartet in August (I believe I am burdened with the obstetrics of producing a viola and cello, while my wife handles the upper strings, as only she can). Still, you tried.

On another matter, I was watching the Classical Brit Awards and would like your views on the 'dumbing down' of classical music. Does classical music need to be 'trendy' in order to sell? I note that Julian Lloyd Webber started the 'style over prowess' trend some years ago, although quite what 'style' he was promoting remains open to question. Later, Nigel Kennedy assumed that talking with a deshhperately infuriating speech impediment and soaking his hair in urine was going to appeal to the casual listener and now we have Bond, whose use of vibrato is more to keep the breasts wobbling than to enhance tone.

Do Mozart or Haydn really benefit from nudity and last season's haircut or are we pandering to pathologically uncultured nobodys who should really stick to Tina Turner and Elton John?


Dear DGriffs,

Hey, I like Elton John!!! That bit at the end of The Lion King especially, where the horns are going crazy and a rained-upon Simba looks down at the improbably flowing rivulets as he ascends Pride Rock in the place of his father. I love it, love it, love it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Having said that, yes, the Classical Brit Awards are depressing and pathetic, and yes, music does have to be 'trendy' in order to sell. Which is also pretty depressing and pathetic. But hey, who are you (with your lacklustre sperm and worryingly elitest tendencies) to take on the massed interests of the bright new, exciting, dynamic and busty classical music world? My advice instead is that you embrace reality! Chuck the viola, check out that last decade's haircut, work on that Estuary accent and aim for those wobbling bosoms (in a manner of speaking of course. Don't forget that you, personally, are about to father quadruplets). A complete sex-change, some really vibrant implants, an electric guitar and some radical facial surgery and really, you know, you too could look as weird as Michael Jackson.

[Alice: Nobody could look as weird as Michael Jackson. Best, Basil]

Yours, next in the queue,

Copyright © 2 May 2003 Alice McVeigh, Surrey, UK




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