I am rather good (though I say so myself, as shouldn't) at pouring oil on troubled waters. This afternoon I need to be.
I don't know exactly what has gone on, but somebody
is hot-footing it round to see me and the omens aren't good. Mr B, who is (of course) watching the Ryder Cup on the TV, says I will have to do my oil-pouring act in the kitchen and, please, not to involve him in any way. I rush around tidying the kitchen in
the hope that it will look like the ideal place to sit and chat over whatever has happened, or not happened, or might be about to happen if it hasn't happened already. This is why doctor's receptionists and super efficient secretaries always try to wheedle
out of callers an indication of why they need to speak to the doctor / their boss. It is all about Being Prepared, as any Cub Scout would tell you. I am not at all well prepared but I have my Soothing Balm at the ready.
I rather think that it might be that old chestnut, the email, which lies at the bottom of the problem. How many emails have been misunderstood, I wonder, including many of mine I am sure, even though I always read and re-read before sending, just to
make sure they sound OK.
At Choir this morning, I am pleased to see that my friend Sue is back from tending to her newest grand-daughter. We exchange baby news, as you do, in the few minutes before our conductor,
the Redoubtable Muriel, raps on her music stand to bring the unruly masses to order. Muriel is concerned that we are not pronouncing our consonants distinctly enough. She therefore takes us through a series of vocal exercises which consist of us singing about
babbling babies, gaggling geese, sizzling sausages and zany zebras. I wonder what a zany zebra looks like? Even an ordinary zebra is pretty zany, when you think about it, with all those crazy stripes. We all enunciate the words with as much precision as we
can muster on a Friday morning, taking extra special care to note exactly where our tongues are. As in, on the roof of our mouths or not. The Redoubtable Muriel is particular about this.
We sing Jock O'Hazeldean
and I surreptitiously glance over at Mr B who has previously expressed his dislike of Scottish songs. Jock O'Hazeldean is not so bad, I reckon, certainly compared with Mr B's all-time unfavourite, "there's nae look aboot the hoose..." For those who don't know
the story of Jock, as penned by Sir Walter Scott, no less, it involves a reluctant bride whose would-be pa-in-law is promising all kinds of gifts if she will only marry his son, the Laird of Errington. These gifts include a mettled hound, a managed hawk and
a palfrey fresh and fair. "Where on earth would she keep them all?" I wonder aloud. Sue gets the giggles. The fair lady in question is obviously just as bothered as I would be about caring for the mettled hound (apparently it means spirited, courageous, valiant
- a lot of trouble, then ..) and the rest of the promised menagerie so she basically legs it over the border with Jock, leaving the Fair Laird at the altar. What becomes of the mettled hound, the hawk and the fresh, fair palfrey the song does not tell us.
Terry in the corner says something about the Unkindness of Women to poor, hapless fellas. It is fortunate - and helps redress the balance - that the next song we sing is "South of the Border" which, for those of you
unfamiliar with it, is all about a faithless man who meets a sweet maid, a "picture in old Spanish lace", promises to meet her "mañana" but fails to turn up. The swine! When he returns it is to find that she has taken the veil and gotten herself to
a nunnery. Serves him right, but bless her, poor thing, being taken in by such a heartless cad. It's a pity she couldn't get together with the Laird of Errington, she might have taken a fancy to him, what with the mettled hound, the managed hawk and the palfrey
fresh and fair and all.
I cannot imagine that the problem I am about to be called upon to sort will be anything like as drastic as the poor old Laird's predicament, as in what to do with the hound, the palfrey
and the hawk, or as painful as the sweet maiden's down Mexico Way. It will all be a misunderstanding about an email, I bet you anything. One day they will write songs about such things and choirs will sing them and laugh at the strangeness of the words and
As the Redoubtable Muriel said, when the Bacon Bap Brigade convened in the cafe after choir, it's all in the words. I have to agree; I used to have a sign on my office window-sill when I was
a Working Gal; I have it still. It reads: "O Lord, help my words to be gracious and tender today - for tomorrow I may have to eat them."
So very true.