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A Potter's Moll: The Organ Recital

...There is a hilarious chapter called ‘The Organ Recital’, an expression she attributes to the late Lord Annan. When two or three older people get together she writes, you can be sure talk will soon get to the ‘Organ Recital’. “Heads, bodies and legs are dissected; noses throats and ears, skin and bones, arteries, liver and lights, and (Blair’s favourites), hearts and minds.”

“There is a strong sense of competition even as to the waiting times at hospital (length of); tales of woe are capped and re-capped as the Organ Recital progresses...

Liz Robison's enthusiasm for two books will make you rush out to your nearest Waterstone's, or tap into Amazon.

To read Liz's earlier columns please click on http://www.openwriting.com/cgi-bin/mt-search.cgi?IncludeBlogs=1&search=Liz+Robison

And do visit the Web site of Liz's husband, internationally renowned potter Jim Robison http://www.jimrobison.co.uk/

Two hearty book recommendations first this week. At my Mother’s Knee and Other Low Joints is the autobiography of the first eighteen years of the life of Paul O’Grady (Lily Savage). Funny, sad, riveting: I read it in one go. O’Grady happened to be born in Birkenhead on Merseyside, which is my home town too, but our backgrounds were very different – his family were working class Roman Catholics: mine were I suppose, lower middle class Welsh Non-Conformists. Church v Chapel with a vengeance.

My friend once took me into St Werbergh’s, the church where O’Grady was later an altar boy, and I remember being astonished at the statuary, the stained glass, the votive candles and the incense-laden gloom.

How different from the pine-pewed plain chapel with the frosted windows and central pulpit (no altar), surrounded by the ‘Set Fawr’. a dais on which were chairs for the deacons who nodded and agreed loudly when the preacher made a good point.

O’Grady tells of failing the Eleven Plus and being assigned to St Hugh’s Secondary Modern School, known to all as The Yozzers. My girls’ grammar school was diagonally across the road from this school and the starting and finishing times were staggered so that never the twain should meet. Once my friend and I were walking past the playground when the lads were out, she carrying a cello in its case. ‘It’s a big fiddle,’ shouted some wag of a lad.

The chief altar boy who had grey hair and was called ‘SS’ by the rest was remonstrating with O’Grady for messing about during Mass one morning, and he said, ‘If you don’t want to serve the Lord properly, you can F*** off!’

The book shows a keen eye for details of time and place and would evoke period nostalgia for anyone who grew up in an age when busses had Clippies.

The other book recommendation was harder to track down. It’s called ‘Home to Roost’ by Deborah Derbyshire, widow of the late Duke of Derbyshire. Due to slightly dodgy hearing, I heard it on the radio as ‘Home Truths’, which gave the assistant in Waterstones quite a challenge. I also thought the introduction was by Alan Titchmarsh when in fact it is by Alan Bennett.

In the introduction he writes: ‘Deborah Devonshire is not someone to whom you could say ‘Joking apart….’ Joking never is apart with her, it’s of the essence even of the most serious and indeed saddest moments.’

Bennett says he has never quite been able to accept the invitation to call her ‘Debbo’, so he calls her Mrs Debbo and she calls him ‘Mr Alan’. One of her sisters (she is one of the Mitford girls) always called her ‘Nine’, because she said that was her mental age!

In the opening section of the book she says I have changed my name three times but I have only been married once. She lists sixtysix offices held by her late husband which range from The twice mayor of Buxton, to Minister of State in the Commonwealth Relations Office, to a Vice President of the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club, to the Present of the Chesterfield and Darley Dale Brass Band.

There is a hilarious chapter called ‘The Organ Recital’, an expression she attributes to the late Lord Annan. When two or three older people get together she writes, you can be sure talk will soon get to the ‘Organ Recital’. “Heads, bodies and legs are dissected; noses throats and ears, skin and bones, arteries, liver and lights, and (Blair’s favourites), hearts and minds.”

“There is a strong sense of competition even as to the waiting times at hospital (length of); tales of woe are capped and re-capped as the Organ Recital progresses.

I am not a lover of professional sport; I know I am probably in a crabby minority. The triumphalism of Wimbeldon gets my goat. The site of Andy Murray on the front page of the paper, pumping the air with his face and grimacing like a chimpanzee is unbearable. Cricket and tennis used to be more genteel, now they all seem to borrow their behaviour from Soccer players.

On a funny note, my sister went to see Helen Mirren in ‘Phaedre’ at the National Theatre. She mentioned this to a neighbour who said: ‘Oh, didn’t know you had been to Wimbeldon.’ (Federer).

Another of my gripes at the moment is simpering news readers with blonded hair and lip gloss. They do a disservice to all the people who worked so hard for Women’s Lib. On Newsnight Emily Maitliss’s farewell line to interviewees is ‘Thank you for coming in.’, which sounds like a welcome from a pub landlord.

Finally, a ‘madeleine moment’. I ate some cherries recently, strangely without any stalks. It took me back to an occasion as a child, when my mother bought a pound of cherries from an open fronted green grocer’s as we waited for a bus. We ate them on the bus, sitting on the long seat and when I found two pairs of pairs of cherries with their stalks joined, I put them over my ears, pretending they were dangly earrings, which made several grownups smile.

More from me in a fortnight.


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