If Noel Coward could do it…

Sunday July 17, 2005

“My brain hurts!” I wailed into the telephone.

“Why? What have you been up to?”

“Researching cars. I hate cars. I’d quite forgotten how much I hate cars.”

“What have you looked at, then?”

“Ford, Citroen, Renault, Suzuki…”


“Each time I locate a model I like the sound of I read the reviews and discover the snags. So, rather than evaluating cars, I’m evaluating snags. And I don’t like it.”

“Forget it, then. Do what you did last time and buy a Fiesta.”

“That’s probably the best approach. But I have to go through the motions.”

“You’re just a glutton for punishment.”

“True. Unhelpful, but true. Anyway, how’s tricks down in Somerset?”

And so the conversation turned to more pleasant, everyday matters. When I put the phone down I felt better but the problem hadn’t gone away.

The truth of it is that I have almost zero interest in cars. Cars are the main love of many people, and general motors the mainstay of conversation after sex, politics and houses. Hey ho. Seems at the moment I’m doomed to be concerned with houses and cars, circumstances being what they are. Should be grateful for small mercies, I suppose. I was brought up never to discuss sex and politics in public so at least I’m free of those concerns.

See, a car is, ultimately, boring. I have one, can’t manage out in the sticks without one, but I have absolutely no interest in them beyond that. Nasty, smelly, noisy, polluting money-pits, that what cars have always been to me. My own car, the little blue Ford, has been a faithful servant but I don’t think of it as a personality, just a convenience. I shall be sad when I lock the door for the last time and walk away from it, but truth to tell, within a week I’ll have forgotten it. And within a fortnight the new one, whatever it may be, will have started accumulating dust and dirt just like the old one. I don’t believe in cleaning cars. Gives them ideas above their station, does excessive cleaning.

Even so, as the evening cooled down after another stinking hot day, I opened up the garage, and set to the task of cleaning the inside of the little blue Ford. Tomorrow, or the day after, I shall put it through the car wash and go off to buy a car. The book value of the old one is just about zero now, certainly not justifying a proper valeting, but I do need for honour’s sake to be able to screw a bit of cash from the dealer for it, and to be able to drive it onto his forecourt, leave it there, and drive away in the new one.

In a couple of weeks it’ll all be over. Can’t wait.

After my shower I sat down to the piano and fumbled through another of those old songs we used to sing. Singing is good. Singing raises the spirits. Especially if you’re the one doing the singing, belting out the words regardless of quality. Too late to do anything about the quality, so I concentrate on the quantity these days. A sort of ‘never mind the quality, feel the volume’ approach to singing. Just as well my study is out of earshot of neighbours.

It’s a good old song, though:


Flee as a bird to your mountain, thou who art weary of sin;
Go to the clear flowing fountain where you may wash and be clean.
Haste, then, th’avenger is near thee; call, and the Saviour will hear thee;
He on His bosom will bear thee; O thou who art weary of sin,
O thou who art weary of sin.

He will protect thee forever, wipe every falling tear;
He will forsake thee, O never, sheltered so tenderly there.
Haste, then, the hours are flying, spend not the moments in sighing,
Cease from your sorrow and crying: The Saviour will wipe every tear,
The Saviuor will wipe every tear.
Mrs Mary S.B. Dana (1810-1883)


You can really let rip on these old ‘uns, can’t you. I think I may give the Victorian tear-jerkers a miss from now on, though, and turn to some good, sigh-raising Torch Songs. The Sally Army may think they have better tunes than the Devil, who am I to judge, but I have a fancy to try my hand and my cracked voice at something a bit more sinful, like, for instance:


I’ve got to sing a torch song
I’ve got to sing a torch song,
For that’s the way I feel;
When I feel a thing,
Then I can sing, 
It must be real.
I couldn’t sing a gay song,
It wouldn’t be sincere,
I could never croon
A happy tune
Without a tear.
I have my dreams, but one by one,
They vanish in the sky;
I try to smile and face the sun,
But romance passes by.
I’ve got to sing a torch song
To someone far apart,
For the torch I bear
Is burning there,
Right in my heart.
Dubin &amp. Warren, from Gold Diggers of 1933


Well, if Noel Coward could do it…



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