I felt really important, sitting there at the table where Myra usually sits, the choir register and a smart red cash box in front of me. "Hello, Myra!" everybody said, as they reached the head of the queue clutching their
fifty pence pieces, "How you have changed!"
It was about three weeks ago when Myra asked me if I would be prepared to collect in the money today, a day when she knew she would be absent. She had called me
over and demanded my assistance in a voice which brooked no arguments.
"She obviously realises you are trustworthy," commented my friend Sue when I returned to my seat, wondering exactly what I had let myself
in for. It would be nice to think that was the case, I responded, but to be honest she probably realised I was a mug who wouldn't say no.
When it came to it, I was glad I said yes. I liked being the "Meeter
and Greeter" welcoming all the smiling faces arriving at my table. "Ready to sing?" I asked everyone like a female (and much older) Gareth Malone.
One small problem presented itself: the marking of the register.
For some reason, Myra's ticks against each name were backward ticks. Why? I asked myself, puzzled. Small Margaret (as opposed to Tall Margaret who, regular readers will recall, is a member of the Birdy Group) had the answer: Myra was left-handed. Well, I supposed
it made sense. My quandary was this: did I follow Myra's lead and use backwards ticks to check everyone in? Or did I do what came naturally? In the end, I followed Myra's example, not because it made sense but because I think I must be a trifle OCD. I found
I couldn't bring myself to upset the apple-cart. Or spoil the strange symmetry of Myra's register.
Because tomorrow is Valentine's Day, our Conductor, the Redoubtable Muriel, decreed that we would be singing
ditties which could be generally grouped under the heading Aspects of Love. She is clearly A Romantic at Heart, our Muriel. Did we know, she asked us, that there were more than thirty songs in our extensive repertoire that could be classed as true love songs
- and we would try to sing them all over the next hour and a half. "We'll be lucky to make it through the first five," muttered Second Sue, who sits next to the other Sue mentioned above. There are a lot of Sues in our choir plus a fair sprinkling of Margarets.
Having taken the register, I know everyone's surname now, as well as their first names, though I would prefer not to be put to the test.
Well, Second Sue was proved wrong. Boy, did we sing songs! We sang Brighton
Camp (aka The Girl I Left Behind Me) and L'il Liza Jane ("Oh - Eliza!") followed for good measure by Silent Worship and Greensleeves. Had we noticed, the Redoubtable Muriel asked us, how almost every love song was written from the fella's point of view. Moreover
a good many verses spoke of offering the Fair One gifts of beautiful clothes and priceless jewels in return for her favours. A form of bribery, according to our conductor - but no, someone in the men's section objected: "Sheer extortion!" he muttered, menacingly.
Maybe he had been Unlucky in Love.
Especially for Terry, who puts the chairs out every week, we sang the plaintive Lilli Marlene. It was while we were warbling about the fair Lilli, standing in the lamp-light
waiting in vain for her soldier lover, that I noticed, through the open door, an old gentleman in a wheel-chair in the corridor outside. I couldn't hear him above all our voices raised in song - but he was clearly singing along. Bless, you're never too old
for love. I came over all misty-eyed at the sight of him.
We sang that clever love song "Oh, no, John" about the fair maiden who has been warned by her father always to answer no. Her suitor, undeterred,
cunningly switches his questions - does she want, he asks, to stay single all her life? "Oh, no, John, no John, no, John, NO!" we altos and sopranos chorused. It was great fun.
Perhaps our best and, if you
will excuse the word, lustiest performance was in the singing of "Love is the Sweetest Thing". Though I say it myself as shouldn't, we were in such good voice.
"This is the tale that never will tire, this
is the song without end.
Love is the greatest thing, the oldest, yet the latest thing,
I only hope that fate may bring love's story to you."
Thank you for this morning of music, Muriel. Love, indeed, conquers all.
Please remember that tomorrow, Mr B, my One and Only Valentine.