The Fortnight Reviewed

Last weekend I vanished into a deep well of nostalgia and Welshness…it was my mother’s 80th birthday, which we celebrated down in Port Talbot, South Wales. And to honour the event my brothers and I arranged for a local Welsh male voice choir to hold a concert in her honour.

Yes, I know that sounds crazily over the top…! The context is that my mother has been President of this choir for twenty or so years, and all the choristers are her friends. So the concert was their way of marking the occasion, and honouring her contribution to the choir’s work. And organising the event has been my ‘hobby’ (hollow laugh!) for the last few months.

The choir was superb; they sang in a beautiful local church, St Paul’s, to an audience of 200+ people, accompanied by a succession of gifted musicians on the piano, with solo spots from a young and talented guest artiste, Catrin Sian Harris. I felt, as always, so ashamed to be unable to sing in tune outside the bathroom (and inside the bathroom, the tiles have strong views about my vocal accuracy.)

Afterwards we held a reception in a local hotel where the choir performed their ‘afterglow’ routine – a non-stop medley of songs.

A further highlight came when a friend of my mother’s – Evelyn White, formerly a soloist with the choir – did a fantastic version of an Ivor Novello song. Evelyn worked in an office in the steel works for most of her career, but has had an amazing career as a solo singer on an amateur basis, and has WAY enough talent to have sung professionally…and I was thrilled to hear that her voice is as strong as ever. Then former Welsh rugby international John Collins -a friend of my mother and step-father, and also a close friend of my father – was invited to come up and tinkle the ivories. I was somewhat alarmed at this prospect – for I’d been speaking to John a few minutes previously, and after a day watching the rugby he was EXTREMELY pissed – but he played, with astonishing virtuosity and expression, a wonderful version of Georgia on My Mind. It was, in my view, good enough to get him a spot at Ronnie Scott’s.

This is the astonishing thing about this world of Welsh culture from which I hail – the wealth of musical talent is just awesome.

Except, of course, for me!

The following day I attended a Valentine’s Day concert in Oxford, where I went to University (as did Mike Carey – it’s clearly a breeding ground for deranged writers.) I spent a while in my old college and walking the streets of the city, awash in memories, most of them involving, er, alcohol or books.

Now that the choir have sung, and the birthday is over, it’s business as usual for me. I’m about to start writing my art crime drama for the radio, so I have a mountain of books on art to read. And I’ve well into my latest SF absurdity – Hell Ship. Sadly, though, writing duties mean I haven’t had time to go to the Berlin Film Festival – which I much prefer to Cannes, except for the weather.

I’m now, very slowly, gearing up for Odyssey at Easter, which will be my next major social occasion. Until then – I’m going back to being a sedentary, anti-social writer for a while….

Other stuff: I read a great book in this period – Already Dead by Charlie Huston, a brilliant noir vampire novel. And I’ve just started Jesse Bullington’s astonishing Sad Tale of the Brothers Grossbart. And I saw and really enjoyed the new version of The Wolfman, with Port Talbot boy Anthony Hopkins as the evil dad. (He is utterly terrifyng.)

The SFF Song of the Week slot has been enlivened by choices from Brian Ruckley (this week) and Paul Raven last week. And I’ve just had a new and spiffing song choice from Robert Grant, of Sci Fi London – so watch this space!

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