I am not who you think I am by Sandra Horn

 

As usual, I had not a thought in my head as the Day of the Blog came round. Then there was a quote on Facebook – something like ‘be nice to writers or they’ll put you in a book and kill you.’ Then there was Bill Kirton’s last delightful blog. Some threads from both began to knit, albeit loosely and with knots. Something about whether what we write reflects our true feelings and beliefs or not – and more to the point, what do readers make of US and attribute to us when they read what we’ve written? Once, in the long-ago-now days of school visits, I read Nobody, Him and Me to a class of primary school children. It features an evil moggie called Biter the Fighter, who is defeated by a trio of ingenious mice.  At the break, I was approached by a teacher with a look in her eye that made me glad she wasn’t holding a knife. ‘So,’ she growled, ‘you don’t like cats.’ I protested, of course, and referred her to my other cat stories, The Hob and Miss Minkin, which feature –or rather, star - a most delightful puss. She still hated me. Confession time: I grew up in very rural Sussex. Acres of room around us. We had a house full of cats and dogs and I loved them. Now I live in a city. My garden is small and hung about with bird-feeders. I do not have a cat, but all my neighbours do. I do not love the cats. OK?

In poetry workshops in schools, I’ve often set the challenge of writing a poem in the first person of someone or something evil or dangerous or disgusting – an apologia. It’s great fun and has produced some memorable work. I remember a camera (who’d have thought?) and Hitler as subjects, but there were many more. As for me, in my small and much loved city garden, there are slugs. I never use pellets, but if I see a slug or snail, I usually squash it. Eugh. But:

 

Vissi D’arte

 

All night

 I shall labour,

   as fast as

    I’m able. 

   I’ll beautify

    your paving,

     paint your

   lawn, with

  silvery

   messages

       of hope

         and joy.

           I’ll sculpt

            as many

             leaves

              as I can

              reach

            (which

          will be a

          large and

         most

      surprising

     number)

   to make

 exquisite

filigrees,

through

which

 the moon

  may shine,

   the rosy

    morning

     gleam. 

      At last,

     exhausted,

      I shall seek

        my bed

          in the cool

            damp

               beneath

                the shed. 

                I ask no

                 thanks,

                  no praise –

                only that

             u pause

           a while,

      reflect

   upon my

 work and

 smile.

 

(Now I’ve added this, I’ve had the feeling, which is increasingly common, sad to say, that I’ve used it in a blog before. If so, a grovelling apology. I can’t remember – it’s just a pit-of-the-stomach feeling. I put it down to entropy caused by months of isolation.)

 

I’m labouring the point, I know, but just to say it’s often hard if not impossible to tell anything about a writer’s beliefs and feelings from their work – mostly, that is. I’m talking here about fiction and poetry, and there are some obvious exceptions, as, for example, writings about the experience of grief, which can give grieving readers a sense of connection and comfort. But by and large, the art of writing is about wearing someone or something else’s shoes convincingly. So I will end with a ranty poem which I also hope and pray I haven’t used before – and by the way, Wagner always excepted, I’m an opera buff. In case you were wondering. The capitals are for emphasis in performance.

  

Patter song  (c/f ‘I am the very model of a modern major-general)

 OH, my Auntie Mabel takes me to the opera on Saturdays

To evening performances and sometimes to the matinees.

 MUM says it’s kind of Auntie to keep taking me to opera

But I might just have to kill her ‘cos I don’t know how to stop her.

 THE ladies warble mournfully, the men are loud and orotund

And everyone goes on and on, especially when they’re moribund!

 I  suppose some people like to sit through hours and hours of racket – they

Turn up nightly, in their droves, though tickets cost a packet!

 THEY’LL  pay a flippin’ fortune for some tripe by Arthur Sullivan

Consisting of tra-la-la tra-la-la-la tra- ad nauseam!

 I  might enjoy the opera if the storylines were sensible,

But somewhat more than half the time, they’re just incomprehensible!

DER Freischutz – what’s all that about? Can anyone enlighten me?

And what about those dopey girls in that Cosi fan tutte–

THEY’D have to be stone deaf and blind as well as daft as          brushes                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              

To be taken in by a change of clothes and a pair of fake moustaches!

I’VE seen a Turandot who looks just like a grumpy hippopotamus

Her backside wouldn’t fit inside a double-decker omnibus

 BUT blokes are queuing round the block to woo her, there’s no stopping ‘em

Even though there’s ev’ry chance she’ll finish up by topping ‘em.

 OH, Octavian is the lover of a lady called the Marschallin

He’s actually a woman - but she doesn’t notice anything!

 THEN she – or he – are you following this? dresses up as Mariandel

That’s even more cross-dressing than in all that rot by Handel!

 YOU think I’m talking through my hat? Well how about your trying it?

Try the woman being sung to by a fish as she is frying it!

 TRY Salome for incest and a touch of necrophilia

Or any Donizetti if you fancy something sillier.

I’VE tried to tell Aunt Mabel this but all she did was give me grief!

She said, ‘You really are a stupid child; you must suspend your disbelief.’

HUH?

 SHE’ll  part with a small fortune just to have her eardrums pulverised

By caterwauling tenors and sopranos who are supersized.

WHY?

 THE opera is not much fun for anyone attending –

You sit there ‘till your bum goes numb and there’s no happy ending

 FOR women in some operas life is no bed of roses

They dance and laugh and fall in love – then get tuberculosis.

POOR Butterfly disembowels herself when Pinkerton betrays her

And Lulu’s finished off by Jack the Ripper, with a razor.

CARmen and Tosca get the chop – so do Norma and Aida

Nedda and Lakme, Vreli, Iris – and Juliet and Gilda!

 SOME  men don’t do well either if it’s peace and quiet they’re looking for - 

Arturo meets his maker through the barmy bride of Lammmermoor.

 ANDré Chénier is guillotined and Alfio murders Turridu.

They shoot Cavaradossi  when he doesn’t think they’re going to!

 THERE’S oodles of sex, there’s blood galore, corpses and gender-benders

Just save your money, stay at home – you’ll get it all on East Enders!

 

Comments

Bill Kirton said…
Hilarious, Sandra. Thank you. (I only wish there were a facility for adding an audio recording to the blogs. I've tried to do justice to your Patter Song several times with varying degrees of [un]success, so I'd love to have heard your definitive version.) Serendipitously, in a recent clear-out of old stories, I came across one I wrote and recorded for the Word Count Podcast which could easily have been narrated by a less evil acquaintance of Biter the Fighter.
Jan Needle said…
Great stuff that! And FYO, freischutz is what the lady wore at the cooker so she didn't burn her feet. I'll get me coat.
Wendy H. Jones said…
As good as always, Sandra. Made me laugh.
Eden Baylee said…
Fun post Sandra, and I love your poem "Vissi D’arte."
It has such a playfulness to its form.

For someone who comes up with a blog last minute, you did great!
Have a super weekend,

eden xo
Susan Price said…
Two cracking poems, Sandra -- I hope you're stuck for a blog next time too.
I shall think of 'Vissi d'Arte' every time I come across another piece of slug artwork in my garden -- so thrice-daily at least.
Sandra Horn said…
Thank you everyone! Bill, the patter song was spoken by an actor at a posh do for Dorset Opera, but not recorded. I'd love to see the podcast - is it still available? Jan, ha ha! Fyo, the opera with the frying in is Die Frau Ohne Schatten. Make of that what you will!
Reb MacRath said…
Great blog, Sandra. If you ever set your mind to it, your future as a rapper is assured.

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