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Here Comes Treble: Largely Eclectic

Isabel Bradley introduces us to a fascinating friend, Chris, a large man, in body, heart and lifestyle. After reading this engaging portrait you wil wish you could spend time with Chris, chatting, hearing him sing to the acommpaniment of a Broadwood and Sons baby grand piano...

For more of Isabel's exhilarating words please click on Here Comes Treble in the menu on this page.

Chris is a large man. He lives in a large house, surrounded by a large garden, hidden behind large walls. Chris shares custody of six dogs with his ex-wife. At any time he has at least three energetic Springer spaniels vying for his attention.

Each dog has a distinctive personality, from the obsessive-compulsive leader of the pack who carries his juicy tennis ball, constantly begging guests to throw it, to the youngest who chases her tail in freshly-dug flower beds, bearing a muddy high-tide mark half-way up her white legs.

The garden is a series of ‘outdoor rooms’, set into an equal-sided L-shape. Closest to the driveway is the ‘room’ containing a birdbath and fishpond, the next contains the braai, or barbecue area, then there is a rose-garden with a bronze sun-dial, and the last is the outdoor eating area, complete with wrought-iron table and chairs. Each peaceful ‘room’ is separated from the next by green and flowering beds filled with shrubs and trees.

The front door of the house opens into the lounge. To the right of the door stands a glorious Broadwood and Sons baby grand piano. It is stacked with piles of sheet music – songs from the worlds of opera, operetta, stage and screen, in albums and single sheets, some tattered, some seemingly never opened. Chris has a warm baritone singing voice.

In the curve of the piano is a hat stand. On it hangs a collection of hats from around the world – a blue and furry one from the old USSR, complete with bright red star displaying the hammer and sickle, a tweed deer-stalker, an embroidered cap and a tam-o-shanter.

There are three large, easy chairs, placed around the hi-fi system, where there is a pile of CD’s including a collection of digitally re-mastered original performances from last century. We are here to listen to Benjamin Britten’s War Requiem, written to celebrate the re-opening of Coventry Cathedral. The sound of massed choirs, ‘brazen’ brasses, thundering percussion, gentle winds, sweeping strings, soprano, tenor and bass pour through the room.

More fascinating items catch my eye.

Above the bar are several photographs of our host with well-known people. The best is a picture of Chris with Spike Milligan, taken in 1975 when the famous personality came to South Africa. My mind filled with memories of a darkened theatre, laughing until my sides ached as Spike, on stage, murmured and muttered endlessly, “Dear me, oh, dearie me, dearie, dearie me,” sighed, took a deep breath, and continued with the same script to the hilarity of everyone there.

On Chris’s walls are framed programmes and tickets for La Bohéme and Carmen, both performed at La Scala: several times Chris has led tour groups to Italy, stopping along the way to hear the likes of Pavarotti and Placido Domingo.

One side of the lounge has large double doors that lead into the study; through the opening, I see a room richly lined with overflowing book shelves and gorgeous paintings; there is a desk holding a computer and recording equipment.

The other side of the lounge, beyond a waist-high wall, is the dining room where pride of place on the side-board is given to a huge gramophone-player, its bell made of beautifully engraved, gleaming brass. There is a collection of old 'seventy-eight’ recordings, which we’re assured, play beautifully when the gramophone-player is wound up.

The kitchen is old and sunlit. Here, after we have eaten our Good Friday feast, Chris sits surrounded by six Springer Spaniels, feeding them carefully measured portions of cold gammon. They surround him, gazing at their leader in adoration, patiently awaiting their turn, hardly drooling at all.

The dining room also leads to another wing of the house in which there is a small, rounded room – not a bay window, but a bay room – which houses yet another collection of photographs: Chris on the Antarctic ice, dressed in ‘penguin attire’, in Timbuktu, on the edge of the Sahara Desert and in many other locations. He’s travelled to the far corners of the earth. In this room is one comfy chair, a television set and a vast library of videos and DVDs.

Chris’s varied interests and talents are as eclectic as his belongings. He runs a marketing company by day, travels whenever the chance offers, and is a broadcaster and public speaker. About a month ago, he took his youngest Springer spaniel to assist him at a fund-raising dinner for a charity which reunites pets abandoned in Zimbabwe, with owners who fled that country under traumatic circumstances. The dog demonstrated how the pets howled when separated from their owners! In his spare time, Chris enjoys time spent in the African bush, sings, and practises his notable cooking and entertaining skills.

A large man, in body, heart and lifestyle, Chris is a fascinating friend.

Until next time, ‘here comes Treble’!

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