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Ask Alice, with Alice McVeigh

On cats and cat gut,
with classical music's agony aunt, ALICE McVEIGH

Dear Alice,
My late aunt has left me a valuable violin in her will -- well, it may be valuable -- but really, I never was any good as a player, and haven't touched my own for about ten years. Her husband would be scandalised if I sold it, but really, the temptation ... I'd love a conservatory, or (if it's not as good as my aunt imagined) a holiday. What do you think?
Feeling excited but guilty in Worcestershire

Dear e but g in Worcs,

(First, a warning from an acquaintance of a friend who worked on Antiques Roadshow: they get forty 'Stradivarius' violins every show, and have never yet had a real one!!!!!!!!!!!)

Second -- and I'll bet you've already thought of this -- you need a decent valuation. Guivier's is good, now Withers has gone the way of all f, but I wouldn't take it to Beare's unless you're sure it's worth a small fortune. (They play skittles with ten thousand pound fiddles in Beare's.) Or you could take it to a violin guru like Kessler, in North London.

As far as your guilt is concerned, I think sentiment goes by the board in these kinds of cases, and it anyway seems a terrible shame to me that a good violin shouldn't be played on (though I've had numerous arguments about this with a couple of violin-maker friends, who stoutly maintain that all Strads, Amatis, etc ought to be locked up in vaults away from greasy-fingers musos, who wreck them, wear out the varnish, buzz off to play in Saudi making cracks etc!!!!!)

Third, having got some kind of an idea about the price, you have a decision to make about the selling. There are loads of stories about stitch-ups in the auction market, and I can tell you authoritatively that this is how it always works:

Dealer A: OK, I won't race you for the Belgian cello and the two Sartory bows if you don't bid on the Gagliano.
Dealer B: Mine's a pint.

Then there are the dealers, but they'll want a percentage, and why shouldn't you have it? I mean, your auntie didn't leave a percentage of her violin to them, did she??? Try leaving a note up in the music colleges first, or advertise in the MU magazine, Musician, or Early Music News. Ring up all your friends/acquaintances and tell them how much you'd be willing to part from it for. About half my friends have sold instruments privately, and it's nice to know the home it's going too, as well.

Then all you have to do is watch out for those conservatory sharks.

(Conservatory builder A: Heh heh.
Conservatory builder B: Mine's a mark-up.)

Cordially,
Alice

Ask Alice

Dear Alice,
I am a cat and I happen to know that it is all your fault I am stuck up in the topmost branches of that big rowan in your back garden because I heard you telling your two bloody dachshunds to have a nice chase and get some fat off their fat tums!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! So what're you going to do about it, huh? Huh? Huh?????
A cat

Isis the cat. Photo: Keith Bramich
Alice McVeigh. Photo: Simon McVeigh

Dear cat,
How was I to know you weren't next-door's cat, who just ignores them? You're both black, aren't you? Just climb back down.
Cordially, Alice

Dear Alice,
Been there, tried that, no can do.
A cat

Isis the cat. Photo: Keith Bramich
Rachel McVeigh. Photo: Simon McVeigh

Dear cat,
But I have to take Rachel to school.
Pip-pip,
Alice

Dear Alice,
Is that more important than a cat's life? Call yourself a caring person????
A cat

Isis the cat. Photo: Keith Bramich
Rachel McVeigh. Photo: Simon McVeigh

Dear cat,
OK, OK, hold still, let me get the ladder ... It's not high enough ... It wiggles too much ... I forgot to insure my bow arm ... Shut up Rachel, I can see there's a cat ...
)("$*^)(_%
Alice

Dear Alice,
I'm stuck, stuck, Stuck!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
A cat

Isis the cat. Photo: Keith Bramich
Alice McVeigh. Photo: Simon McVeigh

Dear cat,
If you're so stuck, how come you're climbing higher????? You want your head looked at, if you want my opinion. And if you scratch me, it's curtains rescue mission.
Yours, pissed-off,
Alice

Dear Alice,
Listen, mate, it was your dogs and I heard you tell them, 'Lookee here, that cat's in the garden again!!!! Tallyho!!!!!!! Chocks away!!!!!!!!
A cat

Isis the cat. Photo: Keith Bramich
Alice McVeigh. Photo: Simon McVeigh

Dear cat,
I don't deny it, but I thought you were the usual cat ... Your heart's going like the clappers, you know that?
Alice

Dear Alice,
So would yours be if some ham-handed cellist was manhandling your only tail!!!!!!!!!
A cat

Isis the cat. Photo: Keith Bramich
Alice McVeigh. Photo: Simon McVeigh

Dear cat,
There you go!!!! Mission accomplished!!!!!!!!!! Now say thank you like a nice cat for the clever cellist to (a) find the ladder in a garage crammed with spiders (b) imperil life and limb climbing up twenty feet and (c) climb down one-handed without dropping you.
Yours, pretty-chuffed-with-self-cat-rescuer,
Alice

Dear Alice,
"$%^^&*&*((( ))())(*&&^%^ $%$^&!! !!!!!!!
A cat

Isis the cat. Photo: Keith Bramich

Copyright © 19 September 2003 Alice McVeigh, Kent, UK

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