Our pianist, Morag, is fighting a losing battle with three large spider plants which have turned up on the top of her piano and are cascading onto her head as she tries to lead us through the singing of “Waltzing
Matilda”. Every time she pounds the keys a little more firmly, the baby spiders bounce along with her. It is obvious to everyone that she is getting seriously annoyed with them.
Finally my friend Sue, who sits behind me where she can keep me amused with a running (and slightly scandalous) commentary on the songs we sing, leaps to her feet and tells Morag to “hand them over!” Morag looks a trifle
startled, before she realises that she is not, in fact, being ambushed but rather is being rescued. She hands the pots, in turn, over to Sue who plonks them down, unceremoniously, on the window sill behind her.
“Let’s face it,” comments Rita, from the second row back, “They’re not exactly Palm Court.” Cue much laughter.
I have been given a Most Important Task by our convenor, Myra. I am not sure why I was given the Most Important Task – Mr B says it is because Myra saw me coming. I don’t know quite what he means by this but somehow
I don’t think he means it as a compliment. Anyway, that is as it may be – the task has been delegated to me and I am carrying it out to the very best of my ability as I know you would all expect of me. My task is to collect money from
all my fellow choristers so that we can present our conductor, the Redoubtable Muriel, with an appropriate gift to mark her 90th birthday in the middle of April.
As collections go, it has been a doddle. People have been throwing money at me for the last three weeks and with one more week to go our collection already stands at £118. I was absolutely cock-a-hoop when we passed the £100 mark as
this was the personal target I had set myself. What is more, even though I am only doing Myra’s bidding (and nobody says no to Myra, not if they have any sense) everyone is thanking me effusively for taking the collection.
“I’m SO pleased someone is collecting!” says one, patting me on the back. I blush, modestly, and say that it’s nothing really.
“Thank you so much for doing this for us,” says another with a grateful grin. I give a sheepish nod, trying to convey that it really is No Big Deal.
“Well done!” someone else compliments me. That’s when I hit on the ideal response which is simply to say how we all want to say thank you to Muriel and congratulate her on reaching such a great age.
“Let me know if you don’t feel we have collected enough and I’m sure I can manage some more,” I keep being told.
I don’t feel I really deserve the thanks which keep coming my way but all this appreciation – deserved or not - does give me a warm feeling of goodwill to all men. And women.
On the first week I handed out printed notices explaining what we were collecting for. This morning people were still coming in with their money and Myra kept yelling:
“Wave!” across the room at me, so that they knew who to pay. Next week, which will be the Last Chance to contribute, I plan to hand out another note, giving the total collected so far, urging anyone who hasn’t yet donated to turn out
their pockets, and explaining that everyone needs to pay a visit to the room across the corridor where they will find a card to be signed by us all.
will you make sure that some people don’t write too much?”someone asks me, “You know, somebody who isn’t really important who will take up so much room writing on the card that there won’t be room for someone who is really important?”
I try to figure out how one would estimate the relative importance of our choir members. It had never occurred to me that there might be a Pecking Order. Would this be anything to do with how well we sing? If so, I may find myself having to scrawl my own name
in tiny letters in the bottom right hand corner. I say I don’t think I can possibly monitor the situation and will have to rely on people’s good sense. “Humph!” says the person who made the suggestion. I can see her
already planning to be first to write in the card to make sure of her space.
“Should we buy a cake?” someone else suggests. Nobody else thinks
this is a very good idea on the basis that to buy anything truly fitting would take up too much of our collection. Some flowers might be a good idea, we all agree.
I’m wishing I had taken a photograph of our Choir at our last concert, when we were all dressed up in our red shirts and black skirts or trousers. That would have been such a lovely gift to give Our Muriel, along with the cash we have collected.
No good thinking “if only”I tell myself.
From my seat on the end of the second row in the Alto section, I watch the Redoubtable Muriel as she takes
us through our vocal paces, alternately encouraging, scolding, explaining and grimacing as she struggles to shape our raggle-taggle band into a More or Less Tuneful Choir. I reflect that collecting for such an amazing woman has been no trouble at all.
It has been, indeed, my pleasure.