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Ask Alice, with Alice McVeigh

Saying goodbye to Fiori,
with classical music agony aunt ALICE McVEIGH

? 'Hello Alice,

You answered my questions, which I am very grateful for. Needless to say, I read most of your articles with enormous interest, especially when finding them humorous and witty.

I also find it interesting to read the little column 'ads by Google' attached to your main column -- even ads in Chinese! I guess you may well master some other languages apart from English, but do you know Chinese?!

Ask Alice

Alice Dear M,

You must be joking!!! I once had a smattering of schoolgirl French, and made a fairly haphazard effort at Italian when studying singing (easier than French, which is not saying much ...) and -- um -- that's it. Not exactly a linguist, and especially outclassed by my husband (four languages) and my grandfather (six, including Japanese, which in my opinion is simply showing off).

The ads which you mention are just put in by Google -- though it wouldn't surprise me if the Chinese ads weren't attracted by its being a classical music site. (As you probably know, music, and especially piano music, is absolutely huge in China, and there are more Lang Langs coming on stream all the time.)

I really hope my twelve-year-old daughter will take her chance (next year) to learn Chinese, though, as it is surely the language of the future.


PS Not feeling 'humorous and witty' at present, sadly, as I had to hold my little dachshund on Thursday as she was put down by the vet. I don't know why it was such a shock (she had heart disease for ages and just wasted away) but it just feels very sad, also for her sister Dori and our inherited Yorkshire Terrorist oops I mean Terrier Harry.

She was a cuddly dog, never happier than when curled in a lap or, as an alternative, in a dachshund pile with Dori, or stretched in the sun. She never took much walking -- in her thirteenth year we carried her as much as we walked her, especially in her last holiday in the Yorkshire Dales, and more than a touch of rain would put her off walking altogether: she would turn up her elegant little black-and-tan nose. Originally the runt, in a litter of nine, she outlived them all except her sister, to whom she constantly deferred, being perfectly content with being non-top dog and of peculiar sweetness of nature. Whereas Dorabella ranged far and wide on walks, Fiori was always more or less at one's heels, towards the end, in fact, basically attached to one's heels, to the extent that I was constantly leaping in mid-air to avoid crushing her, for her deafness was by then profound. She had the most liquid eyes in the world, and the most luxuriant fur: unlike her sister she always just gave way in one's arms. One night, awakened by her howls and barks I came down the stairs in a temper, sure that she was threatening the local foxes -- only to find her sister seriously ill, and she alerting us to the danger (yes, vets do stay open all night, amazingly enough, and yes, she did save Dori's life).

Anyway, I would like to dedicate this column, and this poem, to Fiordiligi/Fiori/Fifi, who will always be much missed.

'Fiori' by A McVeigh: /
When Fiori, you of liquid bones /
filled all my arms as your soft transient feet /
that trod so hesitant and pliant on the earth /
were being shaved for that sharp-angled vein /

I thought: there never was a single earthly soul /
more ductile or more sweet, /
Your every movement supple as perfume. /

And when chill blood engulfed your guilelessness /
('No fight left here,' he said) I flooded streams /
recalling that soft trust /
was born of suffering, and thought again how yielding /
you were once, how full-sapped, and how green, /

Oh somewhere in shade-dappled endless peace /
where velvet inundates its every space /
Live young again and ever fully there: /
Arched sprung and glowing, eager to forbear /

And if -- sweet shade of autumn -- hear a cry: /
Come comfort me again, for it is I.

Copyright © 2 October 2009 Alice McVeigh, Kent UK

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