“We’d been calling all afternoon,” said Douglas’s daughter. “We were about to have one last try when he rang us. Apparently he’d been out with some neighbours. They’d gone, Dad told us, to ‘sing to the old people’.” (Douglas was nearly ninety four.) “I do hope he mimed. Even the old people don’t deserve Dad’s singing.”
I’ve been doing a fair bit of miming myself recently, having joined a singing group of a Friday morning. Trouble is, I’ve a jolly limited range so have to dip out when there’s anything resembling a high note. Think a mixture of Lee Marvin and Marlene Dietrich and you’re getting close. Luckily for everyone, there are over a hundred other people at the group, many of whom are excellent singers, as is our leader, Sarah. So no-one seems to notice if I sing or not. Thankfully, not everyone works on this basis or we would be in trouble.
As it happens, singing is highly recommended to counter the invasion of PD. All to do with keeping the voice strong, breath control and so on. In fact, the exercises that Sarah leads at the top of the session are very similar to the list given to me by the physio; the list that I’ve blutaked onto the wardrobe door and will definitely get around to doing one day.
The main reason I go singing, though, is because a couple of friends invited me. And then I invited a couple more. And now there are six of us, all recently retired teachers, and all – or so it appears to me, though I’m not an impartial judge – a good ten years younger than the group average. In the coffee break, we share our despair about what is happening in education at the moment and send strengthening thoughts to our mates back at the chalk face. I’m sure this makes heaps of difference to them and that they are suitably grateful.
The songs we are given to sing each week are, to be truthful, not exactly up to the minute. The most contemporary number I’ve mimed to so far has been “Mama Mia”, which hit the charts forty one years ago. I doubt that we’ll be tackling Adele or Kanye West any time soon.
Old songs spark old memories, so I spend a fair amount of Friday mornings a- time-travelling. Maybe it’s because I’m a Londoner: Ma and Pa are singing to distract us kids as we motor to South London and back visiting the grandparents. As soon as the piano strikes up, I start to feel car-sick.
Underneath the Arches: Aunt Martha and Uncle Pat giving us their Flanagan and Allen at the Christmas Night party. This being the seventies, I can almost smell the cigarette smoke. Burlington Bertie: Auntie Bess with her natural savoir-faire, strolling through the party with an independent air.
If you were the only girl in the world, nearly had me in tears the other week at the sudden memory of Auntie Elsie and Uncle Bill singing it to each other at their Golden Wedding party, more than thirty years ago.
And the next song turns out to be They’ll be Bluebirds over the White Cliffs of Dover. I smile and think of Bert, Bro-in-Law’s dad, telling us how being stuck in France, fighting the Nazis, was one thing, but having to listen to the Forces’ Sweetheart elicited the choicest of language as they all rushed to turn off the wireless.
So, perhaps, not a song to sing to the old people. Just in case.
It was pointed out on the radio this morning that Bohemian Rhapsody was at number one in the charts forty years ago this week. Unbelievable. Where did that time go? Wonder if we’ll get to mime to that soon? Altogether now…”Is this the real life…”
I’d be interested to know if any other Parkies out there find that the cold weather makes your tremor worse. Or is it just me? Really like to know.