Katherine Gregor

Follow author Add as friend Message author Subscribe to updates from author Subscribe via RSS
Katherine Gregor (a.k.a. Scribe Doll) is a literary translator and scribbler who has also been an EFL teacher, theatrical agent, press agent, theatre director, complementary medicine practitioner, and one or two other things. Perhaps that's why the literary characters she relates to most are Arlecchino, Truffaldino, Gianni Schicchi and Scapin, and feels empathy with crows, squirrels and cats. She lives in Norwich, Norfolk. (Photo courtesy of Rosie Goldsmith @GoldRosie )

Sunday Concert

It's a string quartet today.  Beethoven.  It's what people enjoy.  The folding chairs have been put out.  The seat cushions have aged flower patterns and were last washed probably sometime at the end of the last century.

 

Audience members, mostly in their sixties and seventies (though the odd fifty-something can be seen, too), and regulars at this venue, collect their tickets and photocopied programmes from the table at the entrance.  Glances scan the room, lips on smile alert, in search of familiar faces to greet or impress.  In all the rush of opening their handbags and manoeuvring their purses while paying for their tickets, many women have forgotten to put away their car keys.  These jangle in their fingers, the pendant with the car manufacturer's logo swinging prominently.  A homage, perhaps, to their husbands' career – or financial – achievements.  

 

The room begins to fill with block-coloured jumpers and block-dyed hair, faux-silk (a.k.a. polyester) floral scarves, large pearl, plastic and wooden beads around necks and wrists, as well as smiles that bear witness to the uncommon bliss of self-approval.  Many have known one another since their children were small.  Children who now have children of their own.  Some wave at other people who, just like them, have a holiday home in South-West France.  They did consider Italy and Spain when they were younger, but they already had some school French, and with so many other Brits already in that area, it was practically home from home.

 

There is a predominance of chequered and stripy shirt collars peering out of the men's crew-neck woollen jumpers that look like old favourites.  They trudge with modest, respectable stoops behind their wives.  It's as though the latter know best, after all.  They're the ones who always organise everything.  They're amazing, really.  What with keeping track of the children and grandchildren, remembering birthdays, getting the wallpaper replaced and volunteering one day a week at the charity shop, and lunch with the other female friends every second Tuesday, of course they've never had time for a job.  Many probably have a very uninhibited relationship with their husbands' credit cards, even using them to buy their spouses' birthday presents.  

 

Before the music starts, I take out my little notepad and scribble away furiously in atypically for me small handwriting, so nobody can read it over my shoulder.  I look around.  I am not a huge fan of 19th-century chamber music, but an aficionado of people watching.  I giggle to myself.  I wonder what these people make of me and if they've made up an entire backstory for me, as well.  H. asks me what I'm finding funny.  I share with him, sotto voce, a few of my observations.  He frowns.  He doesn't like my social generalisations.  

 

He is a kind person.  

 

I am less so.  I, like Mr Bennet, think, "For what do we live, but to make sport for our neighbours, and laugh at them in our turn?"

 

Then the members of the quartet walk onto the stage area.  Four young people.  Much younger than anybody in the room.  They bow and take up their instruments.  They start playing and the music, uncompromisingly Romantic, speaks to each and every one of us equally, yet with different words.  I stop writing, and think that, actually, 19th-century chamber music can speak to me, too.

 

Scribe Doll

 

 

Recent Comments
Rosy Cole
Never mind the performance, just write a mischievous review of the audience :-) Remind me never to send you a pair of opera glasse... Read More
Thursday, 15 December 2016 11:27
Katherine Gregor
Oh, I bought my first pair of opera glasses for my sixteenth birthday! :–)
Thursday, 15 December 2016 15:38
738 Hits
2 Comments

The Secret of Winter

When winter envelops you in its embrace, the only place you can look is within.  Summer makes you look outwards.  It entertains you with a spectacle of colours, intoxicates you with its heady, floral scents, dazzles you with its bright sunlight, distracts you, takes you out of yourself.

Winter is about turning inwards and making peace with yourself.  It's about contemplating, imagining and trusting.  It's about guarding – and, if need be, keeping secret – the flame that those who fear the infinity of its possibilities may try to extinguish.

Summer is for those who believe only what they see, while Winter favours those who see not just with their physical eyes but also with the eyes of their soul.  For those who can speak with animals, trees and the winds.  Those who love Winter are not afraid to let their inner flame grow and burn with endless possibilities.  They do not allow their imagination to be fenced in but dare picture wonders others declare to be impossible.  Those who love Winter are those who trust, those who can already see what cannot yet be seen: that the tree's bare branches will bloom with bright green leaves again, that the desolate-looking soil will yield fruits and crops anew, those who sense the miracle of birth and rebirth in the darkness of the earth's womb long before the first green shoot springs out onto the surface.

Those who truly love Winter are privy to Magic.  They smile indulgently – the way one smiles at a yet ignorant child – at the paunchy, red-clad, doll-eyed image of Santa Claus, and, instead, wink at a very different Father Frost.  It is a Sir Christémas with a knowing face and a cloak woven with the colours of the earth – green and russet and gold, sparkling with icicles and embroidered with silver and diamond frost patterns.  An ageless figure with hazel eyes and the arcane knowledge of Merlin, who knows words that can alter elements, can cast spells and brew potions.  A shapeshifter who appears to you in the amber eyes of the russet fox that glint in the street in the middle of the night.  Or the mysterious green eyes of the tabby cat that looks up at your window as you close the curtains in the early evening, and says, if you can hear it, "It's going to be a long, dark night, so guard the flame that glows within you well.  Cherish it, nurture it for when the time comes for it to grow into a fire that will turn imagination into reality.  A fire full of magic."

Scribe Doll 

Recent Comments
Rosy Cole
Lovely, Katia. I remember the winter of 1970/71 when the weather conditions were such that there was rime inches thick for a coupl... Read More
Monday, 28 November 2016 14:46
Katherine Gregor
I wish I could see that. Thank you for commenting, Rosy.
Monday, 28 November 2016 14:52
Monika Schott
Beautiful, Katherine. I love your interpretation of winter and going within, and not being afraid to do that. Such excitement and ... Read More
Sunday, 04 December 2016 08:54
805 Hits
6 Comments

Winter Lights

H. dislikes Christmas, which is why I am surprised he suggests we go to the Norwich switching on of the Christmas lights.  "Yes, but they've put up a tunnel of light that's supposed to look like the Northern Lights next to St Peter Mancroft," he says.

I decide to be cooperative, for once, and not mention my dislike of crowds, the cold, the rain, the absurdity of all Christmas-related events two weeks before Advent, and the fact that I simply don't feel like going out.  Instead, I put on my down coat, hat, gloves, boots – and a cheerful face.  

It has stopped raining by the time we leave home, and the remaining shreds of clouds are drifting away, unveiling brilliant stars on an almost black sky.  The residents of Norwich, from micro-people in prams, cheeks all red and eyes sparkling, to University students, to senior citizens, are gathering in the market place, outside the Millennium Forum and Town Hall.  There is something heart-warming about living in a city small enough to gather everyone in the same place on special occasions.  One gets the feeling of belonging.  In Norwich, the Town Hall is an important focal point.  It's where the 28 foot Norwegian spruce is positioned for Christmas, where rainbow banners are displayed on Gay Pride day, where an inflatable pumpkin leans out of the balcony at Hallowe'en, and where many of us gathered to protest against Brexit.   

University of East Anglia students are handing out flyers for a season of Russian plays entitled Тоска (Toska).  I try and explain to H. how the word can be translated into English.  I ask one of the students and, after a brief exchange of ideas, decide that's it's a blend of depression, boredom, melancholy, and sense of unexplained longing.  Very Chekhov.  Very Tolstoy.  Very Dostoyevsky.  Very Russian.  We promise the undergraduate we'll go and see at least one of the plays.  There's a smell of toffee apples, caramelised nuts and roasted chestnuts wafting through the street.  A small parade is marching across the market place, towards the Millennium Forum.  There are children carrying paper lanterns, emerald green-clad elves on stilts, and a rather slim Santa.  There are also the boy and girl choristers from the Cathedral, in cerise cassocks, singing carols.  We follow the procession.  While waiting for the official lights to be switched on, we strike up a conversation with an old gentleman wearing the blue vest of the tourist information volunteers.  He says he's been here since 1946.  An engineer, he was sent here and told that Norwich was "the graveyard of ambition".  He felt so at home, he never left.  Like the woman who cooks the delicious breakfasts in the café we frequent most Saturdays, who came here from Wales for a weekend party fifteen years ago, and decided to stay.  Like so many others.

Finally, the moment comes for the local celebrity – in this case Ed Balls – to switch on the lights.  A chorus of excited "Aah"s rises from the crowd as fireworks squirt up from the Town Hall and the rooftop of Jarrolds, the department store, bursts of flame shoot up into the air, festive images are projected on the façade of the Town Hall and the wall of the Norman castle keep, and the 50,000 LED lights making up the Tunnel of Light next to Saint Peter Mancroft are switched on, its flow of colours producing the effect of the Northern Lights.  We walk through it, everyone's face changing hue every couple of minutes, as the lights alter.

There is a gently joyous atmosphere in the city centre and, after over two years of doubt and feeling homesick for London, I smile to myself, and think I'm starting to like Norwich.  Truly.

http://www.eveningnews24.co.uk/news/can_you_spot_yourself_in_our_photos_from_the_norwich_christmas_lights_switch_on_1_4782164

Scribe Doll       

Recent Comments
Rosy Cole
How life is enriched when we celebrate it! But, for all your demurrals, you always capture the festive atmosphere of this season a... Read More
Monday, 21 November 2016 13:05
Katherine Gregor
Thank you! ... Read More
Tuesday, 22 November 2016 16:53
Stephen Evans
Тоска - just how I think of Russian literature, yet there is also that sense I find, in Chekhov and Dostoevsky at least, of joy or... Read More
Monday, 21 November 2016 22:46
836 Hits
4 Comments

A Day Bearing a Unique Gift

I look at the clock.  It's 5:50 a.m.  Beyond the windows it's still night and yet I'm wide awake, with a sense of renewed hope and purpose.  Then I remember: the clocks have gone back an hour.  It's the start of that special day that comes bearing a gift not even Father Christmas can bring – the precious grace of an extra hour.

I'm always excited on this day.  It gives you another chance to make a clean start, the possibility to put into practice new ideas that are better than the ones you've just swept out of your life along with cobwebs, possessions you'd been hoarding just in case, and people whose friendship had wilted beyond any nurturing.  A whole extra hour to do something you didn't have the time to do yesterday, perhaps, or something you've longed to do for ages, or else something spontaneous and unexpected.  A potentially magical sixty minutes pregnant with all sorts of wonderful opportunities and possibilities.  So I'd better get out of bed now and not waste this charmed hour.

I sip a cup of warm water, then treat myself to half an hour of gentle yet invigorating Qi Gong practice.

wp_20161030_002The night sky is growing pale when H. and I go out for a walk.  A cushion of fog softens the contours of the River Wensum, the trees and the buildings, and throws a dream-like veil over the fiery autumn red, ocher and gold.  There are very few people about and those we encounter smile and say good morning in subdued voices, as though we humans are all aware of being out-of-hours trespassers in what is left of a night that belongs to hooting owls, amber-eyed foxes, and witches making last-minute preparations for Hallowe'en tomorrow.

A seagull calls out uncharacteristically shyly above our heads as it swoops slowly across the milky sky.  Somewhere deep in the thick, yellowing mane of a weeping willow, there's the rattle of a magpie.  A squirrel runs across the path and scurries up a horse chestnut tree, then pauses to observe us from the top.

"Look!" H. says and points at a bush on the riverbank.

We approach slowly.  A cormorant is sitting heavily on a slim branch, causing it to sway, as though trying to hide from the solitary, ethereal swan that's gliding on the far side of the water.

wp_20161030_003

By the flint building of Pulls Ferry, a red-breasted robin is hopping on the wooden gate post, eyeing us with curiosity.

He's not the only one.  I can feel hundreds of eyes watching us benevolently as we walk, while golden leaves drop down from the trees and float towards us in swing-like motion.

As we reach the Close, the fog starts to dissipate, slowly unveiling the Cathedral spire that now looks like an Impressionist painting.  The sound of the bell drifts through the air, announcing Morning Prayer and the start of this human day which, today, carries the magic of more time.

wp_20161030_005-copy

Scribe Doll

Recent Comments
Rosy Cole
A beautiful piece, the prose itself like a painting and the images so atmospheric. As far as I know, Norwich Cathedral wasn't one ... Read More
Monday, 31 October 2016 15:27
Katherine Gregor
Thank you, Rosy. I'll look up John Sell Cotman's watercolours. Grace, indeed! ;–)
Wednesday, 02 November 2016 07:20
Stephen Evans
Beautiful!
Wednesday, 02 November 2016 00:18
795 Hits
4 Comments

Latest Comments

Stephen Evans We Don't Say Goodbye
15 June 2018
Sound advice Ken.
Ken Hartke We Don't Say Goodbye
13 June 2018
I may have posted this before -- I sometimes need to revisit it. I occasionally need to give myself ...
Katherine Gregor Rise
12 June 2018
I like it!
Katherine Gregor R. R. R.
12 June 2018
I hope you're right. Thank you for your comment.
Rosy Cole R. R. R.
12 June 2018
The real strength you gained from this, I believe, is the interior knowledge, not necessarily recogn...

Latest Blogs

Some time ago I learned that a close friend's friend was killed in the earthquake in Nepal. He was one of the climbers on Everest when the avalanche ...
   It’s been raining for days on end. The girls are back from their trips. Home is warm with their presence once again.   M1 bought all sorts of s...
I’d shake your hand but as you see (ha ha). My name is Mrs. Grubb. Welcome to the neighborhood. A new face is a joy round here. They come and th...
It’s not so bad after all. Coming home to an empty home. Music indeed is therapeutic. Makes good company.   I can’t help but think about the rece...
Different ways of speech communication is one of my earliest memories. The fact that, at home, my mother and grandmother speak one way, and friends, n...