Sunday, 17 April 2011

Women's Institute

Even putting a glass of wine in front 
doesn't make it look good.
When I was smaller, MD would frequent the Women's Institute Cake Sale down the road from my now-deceased Childhood Home. [The coffee cake was best by miles, but there was definitely some sort of cake quota at work. Why else would there have been as many summer puddings as coffee cakes? Who wants a scraggy mound with fruit in instead of succulent cakey goodness?]

These cake sales were terrifying. Half an hour before they opened, hordes of kindly-looking old ladies thronged the village hall doors chatting contentedly. Once inside, however, these old dears would think nothing of trampling each other into the ground over a medium-sized carrot cake. 

As the smallest, I was employed by MD to sneak through the mob and grab the best-looking cake, before retreating to the CH.

It was at orchestra last week that I was reminded of the terror I'd felt around the countryside's mobster grannies. Here, instead of cake, it was artistic recognition for which they fought.

So, hours before the concert, my friend and I realised we couldn't find our usual seats. We'd been ejected from our mildly prominent stand to seats at the back, out of sight, behind a pillar. The sweetly-smiling violinist ladies had manoeuvred themselves forwards with dastardly cunning.

You'd think this would be enough Machiavellian activity for one evening of classical music, but no. Next to us (behind the pillar), sat Mabel.

Mabel can no longer hear very well, but continues to play with atonal confidence. Beside her sits Lin-May. She's in fact rather good, but she can't speak much English, and Mabel finds the language barrier a useful excuse to offer Lin-May advice on her playing. Shouting over the quiet solemn passages and whispering in the loud, Mabel confuses and embarrasses Lin-May equally, but communicates little.

At the interval, Mabel shuffled about onstage, moving people's music (to conform to her own mysterious system), and causing chaos.

As the start of the second half approaches Lin-May and Mabel are nowhere to be seen. Privately, I fear Mabel's locked her friend in a cupboard, though it might be somewhere more sinister. Mabel appears - tutting and fretting and shouting over the tuning, 'Where's the silly girl got to now?' in best beleaguered schoolteacher fashion.

At last, Lin-May appears with moments to spare and in complete disarray:
'Where did you get to this time?' Mabel demands, delighted.
'I can't find my glasses! They're my only pair!' 
'You can't have lost them again? For goodness' sake!' 
'I can't play now,' mumbles Lin-May, close to tears.
'Are they these?' Mabel enquires innocently, plucking Lin-May's distinctive glasses from her bag with a flourish. 'You'd better put them on then - they might come in useful helping you find the notes. Or maybe not...' And, with an air of great generosity, looking as though she'd just beaten her to the last coffee cake, she handed the glasses to Lin-May.


  1. i HATE summer pudding. what a foul concoction.

    nice to hear your acerbic tones again, but when are you going to ring me as a reward for all this diligent commenting i've been doing?

  2. yes! i've even facebooked you did you see? xx ps you are the BEST blog-follower ever ever

  3. I too hate summer pudding, not sure why anyone thought that was a good idea in the first place and no idea why it has continued to exist through the ages.

  4. Also I do like the fact that Fergus' most recent thoughts occurred in August 2010.