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Ask Alice, with Alice McVeigh

Instructions for dealing with a very tricky problem,
prepared by classical music agony aunt ALICE McVEIGH

Dear Alice,

Ask AliceWhat do you do, as an agony aunt, when NOBODY has written to you, not even a dorky text-type message from a teenager who hasn't figured out it's a MUSICAL column?????

Yours, one of your greatest admirers,

Dear Alice,

Well, when this happens, the correct procedure is as follows:

  1. With great maturity and soundness of judgement you quietly jump up and down screaming, 'Nobody's OUT there!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!'
  2. You kick an (imaginary) dog
  3. You check out ebay, to see if there's anything you can buy (RETAIL THERAPY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!)
  4. You don't find anything, so you morosely go back to your email box, hoping for inspiration.
  5. You don't have any messages, so in desperation you start TIDYING THE HOUSE
  6. Suddenly you remember that you have to teach cello in five minutes, and it's not a duffer, no, it's one of the two TERRIFIC PLAYERS that have been gifted to you on their gap year from a USA college, who have actually got a HOPE IN HELL of making it!!!!!!!!!!! She is playing a Hindemith piece you have always sedulously avoided learning, because (a) it was written in the latter half of the 20th century and (b) it makes your head ache to count it, and YOU HAVE FORGOTTEN TO CHECK IT OUT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
  7. Two hours later (it's OK, you distracted her with brilliant in-depth comments about the Rococo Variations instead) you commence looking gloomily at your empty column
  8. Suddenly you remember that you promised to visit your sick buddy in hospital.
    But you do not feel like going to the hospital.
    This is because the hospital is bound to be full of sick people.
  9. Half an hour later, you are still wrestling with your conscience, and have accomplished exactly nothing other than cleaning the kitchen floor, when a TOTALLY FORGOTTEN ABOUT pupil arrives.
  10. The floor looks good too, until both dachshunds come breezing in from the very damp back garden, trailing detritus of rain, brown leaves and even browner earth (they had been digging to Australia, but got distracted by a squirrel).
  11. The pupil leaves, saying something about a sick cat, reminding you that the cat next door is going to be VERY sick, and probably pop his clogs, if you (scatty neighbour from hell) does not get off your bum and go feed it. You let yourself in next door, where Amber watches you contemptuously from out of the corner of her eyes, twitching the end of her tail from side to side in a meaning manner. Since she is a cat, she feigns complete indifference to your proceedings, while you bustle about seeing to her creature comforts, until you have let yourself out, whereupon you observe a tabby-coloured streak whooshing from the hall into the kitchen (doesn't want you getting above yourself, now, does she???)
  12. You then recall that you are WORKING that night, and it's a major event at which royalty will be present, meaning that YOU are personally responsible for getting self and three string players TO a venue in central London by FIVE-THIRTY for extra security or else die in the attempt. You ring up the three, two of whom don't answer their mobiles and the last of whom is asleep, to make sure they are still alive, check the contract ninety-five times and make sure you have music, mobile, cash, evening bag, special lights, make-up, and stand. You also call childminder to make sure her husband can take Rachel to tennis, as this is your last chance on earth to make any serious money out of her so you no longer have to do all of the above.
  13. Then you go back and stare at your non-column some more. There is still nothing worth shelling out for on ebay. The kitchen floor has still got rainy dead leaves on it.
  14. You give up on your column and turn to your play about Schumann. This mighty epic has absorbed you (about five minutes a day) for over a year, but now it is almost finished, you cannot bear to finish it. It has ceased to be a play and become a friend, something you -- and only you -- can turn to, and admire one's polished prose and wonderful pacing. One will never finish it. Schumann (my Schumann) will forever be sitting by the Rhine, but never jump in. He will never be rescued and taken to the asylum; he will never lose his marbles, no, all history will be rewritten because he will be sitting by the oh-my-God my train leaves in ten minutes!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
  15. You make the train by a whisker, trailing chamber music and posh dinner shoes. Your mobile goes and you are sure -- in a flash -- that the leader of your string quartet has in fact jumped into the Rhine in pursuit of a 'bargain' on ebay. However, it is only Rachel's tenor horn teacher, who needs to reschedule her tenor horn lesson. (This is Good News, as it stops you feeling guilt-stricken about having changed her lesson time yourself three weeks running.)
  16. Coming home from the gig, you are no longer thinking about childminders, or the Rhine, or anything. Your brain is dead, way too dead to think about your column, but after all it is only Tues. You think:

    Tomorrow I will go the hospital.
    Tomorrow I will do my column.
    Tomorrow Schumann will finally jump into the Rhine.

    You are asleep.

Copyright © 15 October 2004 Alice McVeigh, Kent, UK



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