Three months after the christmas carol concert the ever-miserable Weber recalled me to the school choir, my miming of the christmas programme had obviously impressed him, and at a full meeting of the school choir and orchestra we were given the news that the head had been persuaded to invest heavily in a brand new performance of a foreign soiree, an evening of high brow culture the name of which escapes me mainly because of the many years of self hypnosis in an effort to forget.
The head had purchased at great cost enough of the sheet music books for us to share one between three and under threat of dismemberment and feeding to the school boiler if we damaged or defaced them we were allowed to open the first page.
It all appeared to be foreign, not just the music but the words too for as we were to find out it was sung in Latin. Well that buggered me up for a start, it was bad enough miming in English but what chance did a lad stand if he was trying to mime to something he couldn’t even read let alone pronounce out loud ?
Yet we couldn’t say no, there was no option, you couldn’t put your hand up and say “Excuse me Sir, I don’t think this Latin nonsense is quite for me just now, I’d rather abstain from this production if you don’t mind awfully” for if you did then it was the boilerhouse for you and Harry the disabled caretaker to feed you to the ever burning school boiler, a huge ravenous machine that had not been extinguished for nigh on forty years, hot water being pumped around the school heating pipes whether you wanted heat or not all of which was rather unwarranted during the hottest of summer days as the radiators in each classroom would still be hot enough to remove skin if you touched them.
Months and months of preparation, Weber sat at the piano with small groups of us soprano kids trying to follow what the hell he was saying, months worth of Weber staring at the currently selected group of half a dozen first year kids and wondering why if six boys were stood in front of him it only sounded like five boys were stood in front of him, he never caught me miming, not once.
And as the night of the grandest of all the grand school concerts approached we were all sent home with the form that stated “Dear Parent, you are commanded to appear at the grand end of year school concert because your kid is in it” and my mother duly filled in the tear off slip and sent me back to school with it, she’d be coming on her own as usual as my dad had a far more important billiard match on that night, I wished that I had a far more important thing to do too.
I could see her from my vantage point on row three of the choir when on stage, when I stood up I could see her between the heads of the two boys in front of me, when we sat down I could hide behind their heads, I could see her peering onto the stage looking for me and each time her eyes scanned close to me I dodged behind the kid in front and she never spotted me at all.
I could see her scowling slightly as the concert began, I hadn’t explained to her that she wouldn’t know any of these songs, hadn’t bothered to tell her that this one would all be in Latin, I wished I’d never taken the bloody slip of paper home and that she’d never come, I wish I’d never been chosen for this bloody choir or that I could at the least fake smallpox on this night, but there I was, clean white shirt, clean tie, mouthing my way through two hours worth of Latin songs without actually making a sound and there sat my mother for two hours with a puzzled look on her face wondering why it all sounded like double dutch to her but not daring to ask either of the also puzzled mothers sat either side of her because she didn’t want to appear stupid, and neither did they.
And afterwards when we had been released from under Webers control to the crush hall where all the parents waited she had told me in front of my classmates that it was all very nice dear and we all sounded ever so good and she pretended that she had understood every word and that it was a common occurence for her to attend to Latin recitals at the working mens clubs that her and my dad attended every weekend, but was I sure that I had been on stage because she hadn’t been able to see me at all and I grabbed her arm to steer her out of the door and homewards for what kid wants to be seen at school with his mother ?
“Come mother” I said so that all of my classmates could hear “come let us hurry to the car and be homeward bound…” and bewildered as always, for my mother was constantly bewildered by life, she replied “Why don’t be silly my dear you know I can’t drive, we’re on the bus as usual” just loud enough so that all my classmates could hear – this is why I didn’t want her in my school.