Katherine Gregor

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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.

– and that's Jazz.

It's 7.45 and all the tables are already occupied.  The staff are carrying in more chairs.  Drinks are sipped.  The hubbub of chatter hovers over the room, an evocation of the cigarette smoke of yesteryear.   

 

The jam session is advertised for 8 o'clock and, as always, I wonder why everyone arrives so early, since the music never starts before about 8.30.  8 is when the odd musician strays in, casual, as though he happened to be passing and decided to drop in.  He deposits his instrument on the stage area, then backtracks to the bar.  A couple of other musicians drift in and slowly start tuning up.  They catch sight of a familiar face in the audience, nod, smile, go and say hello.  Totally oblivious to the social convention of time.  Someday, someone will explain to me what makes jazz musicians think they are exempt from the professional courtesy of starting their performances on time.  Classical musicians manage it.  Actors manage it.  The audience don't seem to mind waiting.  Maybe the fact that the performers are free to be themselves, faults included, makes the audience feel loved.

 

Eventually, the musicians start playing and the audience starts nodding and foot-tapping in time with the rhythm.  Everybody knows the drill: about two-thirds of the way into the song, it's solo time.  The double bass player strums, pinches and boings, eyes closed, Dum-dum-dum-ing to himself.  It's the cue for the audience to applaud.  Then it's the turn of the bass guitar.  Eyelids scrunched up together, face tense, suggesting a painful orgasm.  Audience duly applauds.  Last, but not least, comes the percussionist's exhibition.  It's often the longest, with all the hide, wood and metal getting an extensive thrashing that culminates in another hail of applause.  

 

The singer steps onto the stage, with perfected languor and stylised weariness.  She brushes her mane of hair from one side of her neck to the other.  Eyes closed, head slightly thrown back, the mic almost brushing her lips.  It's just her and the song in a private, intimate space.  Shall we all tip-toe out and remove our voyeuristic presence? 

 

I observe that everyone on stage has either his or eyes closed, or half-closed with a vacant, expression suggesting sense-altering, direct communication with an extra-terrestrial dimension.  

 

A jazz trademark seems to be to cut the verse of the song and attack it straight from the chorus.  Maybe doing what the composer and lyricist intended for the song would be too banal, too conventional, too conformist?

 

Ah, jazz.  Jazz is life. Or is it life is jazz

 

Let's just drop all that jazz.

 

 

Scribe Doll

Recent Comments
Anonymous
Happy New Year, Katia. Still out there and always read your blogs with great pleasure. Thank you, Nicholas
Sunday, 03 January 2016 19:44
Katherine Gregor
Thank you, Nicholas. A Happy New Year to you and your family!
Monday, 04 January 2016 11:13
Monika Schott PhD
Life is jazz! It's such a treat to read two stories from you in a week - thanks. x
Sunday, 03 January 2016 20:13
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Welcoming In The New Year*

Raid all the cupboards and drawers.  Throw into the charity shop bag anything you no longer want, toss into the bin liner anything nobody would want.  Make room for the beautiful, the useful, the new.

Vacuum the carpets, remove the old footprints, that old and new friends may walk in and leave their footprints, instead.

Wash the windows, that golden sunlight may stream into the house, bringing strength to your enterprises, and the silver moonlight may permeate through, carrying inspiration into your dreams.

Scrub the kitchen, chase away stale old smells, that the stove, pots and pans may be ready for new, tasty dishes to bring together friends, and make the body healthy.

Tidy the clutter from the living room, light the fire, that its glow might kindle sparkling conversations, its magic inspire storytelling, and its warmth encourage laughter.

Clean the bedroom, erase all tiredness, that rest may become refreshing, chase away all nightmares, that happy dreams may take root, dispel all doubts, that pleasure may enter smiling, sweep away any anger, that love may flood in.

Put order in the study, that good ideas may find their way in.

Clear the desk, that work, creativity and good fortune may have a place to land.

Burn frankincense or sage, clap your hands, ring bells, make the bowl sing, that all goblins may flee and fairies fly in. 

Take all dead and dying plants out of the house, to the nearby wood.  Nature knows better than the rubbish bin what to do with them.

Write down on pieces of paper the names of all men and women you no longer want in your life.  Say "Thank you", "Sorry", and "That's all right" and drop the pieces of paper into the river one by one.  As you watch them being carried away by the stream, wish them well, that they go on to be gifts in other people's lives.  Let them float away, that they may make room for new people to come into your life.  People who bring love, wisdom and laughter.

Stand under the shower and think rainbows flowing through you.

Fling open all the windows, open the front door, that health, wealth, inspiration, love, laughter may pour in.

And may 2016 sweep into your lives with fulfilled dreams by the armful!

You might also enjoy A Broom To Sweep Out The Old

Scribe Doll 

Recent Comments
Jane Phillipson Wilson
It's so nice to hear you sound like yourself. Best wishes for a wonderful year. xox Jane
Thursday, 31 December 2015 20:44
Katherine Gregor
And a very happy, healthy, serene year to you, Jane :–)
Thursday, 31 December 2015 21:38
Ken Hartke
You need to come visit me. By the way, I have all the sage you could ever want. Rest up after your busy day and have a happy new... Read More
Thursday, 31 December 2015 20:50
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There's no Santa Claus but...

 

Tamsin wrote the letter with her favourite pen.  The blue and gold one she had got for her birthday.  She formed all the letters carefully, so Santa Claus would be able to read her handwriting.  Her grandmother said good children had clear, neat handwriting.  She folded the sheet of paper, slipped it in the envelope, licked the flap and pressed it down hard.  Then she wrote "To Santa Claus" on the front.

 

In the living room, her grandmother had laid the table for afternoon tea.  She smiled at Tamsin. "Come and have some cake, darling," she said.  "Have you finished writing to Santa Claus?"

"Yes.  I hope he brings me the teddy bear. I put him at the top of my list and I did say I want the brown one with the yellow paws and a green bow.  Do you think he'll bring it for me?"

The grandmother cut a slice of chocolate fudge cake and put it on Tamsin's plate.  "I'm absolutely sure he will," she said.  "Now give me the letter so I can post it for you."

Tamsin handed her the envelope.  "Can't we post it together when we go for a walk after tea?"

"Oh, no, my love," her grandmother replied.  "Santa Claus's letters have to go into a special postbox.  It's a bit far from here but I can post it on my way home tonight."

Tamsin put a forkful of cake into her mouth and frowned.

"Don't you like the cake, sweetheart?"

Tamsin nodded.  "Yes."  She swallowed.  "Grandma, is Daddy coming for Christmas this year?"

The grandmother had been dreading that question for the past three Christmases. This year too she gave the same answer.  "No, my love. I'm afraid Daddy isn't coming."

The little girl toyed with her fork.  "He's never coming back."

The grandmother fought the impulse to contradict her.  Of course, he is, she wanted to say.  After all, that's what she had said last year and the year before that, but there seemed little point in deceiving the child any longer.  Someday, someone would have to explain to Tamsin that her father had walked out on his wife and two-year-old daughter but, for the time being, the grandmother opted for silence.

"Is Mummy coming back tonight?" the child asked.

"Of course, she is. Why wouldn't she be?"

Tamsin put her fork down.  "She won't never come back from work, will she?"

The grandmother pulled her down from her chair, sat her on her lap and kissed the top of her blonde head.  "Your Mummy and I will never leave you, my darling.  We love you so, so much."

 

Tamsin was fast asleep when her mother unlocked the door to the flat.  The grandmother was reading on the sofa.  She closed her book.  "I'm afraid she waited up for you as late as she could, but she fell asleep on the chair, so I put her to bed.  You're late, again."

The mother took off her coat and hung it up on the hook by the front door.  She slipped off her high-heeled shoes and went to join her mother on the sofa.  She sighed.  "I'm sorry, I had to finish a report.  I didn't dare say no."

"Tamsin hardly ever sees you.  Breakfast time and weekends.  That's about it."

"I'm doing my best, Mum.  I'm doing it all for her."

"I know.  Are you hungry? I've made some stew.  It's still warm.  I'd better get home now.  It's late."

She stood up from the sofa and looked at her daughter's drawn face.  Then she leaned over and kissed her on the forehead.  "Eat something," she said.  "It's Saturday tomorrow, so you can sleep in.  Then you and Tamsin can spend the weekend together."

 

*   *   *

 

Tamsin  bounced onto her mother's bed.  "Mummy!  Where are we going today?"

Her mother's eyes opened with a start.  "What time is it? Oh, darling, why don't you cuddle up here and let Mummy sleep a little longer?"

"But it's eight o'clock!"

"Just give me a few more minutes, love.  Why don't you go and set the table for breakfast?"

 

Putting out the cereal bowls, Tamsin wondered if her grandmother had remembered to post her letter to Santa Claus.

 

The morning was spent in Tamsin's least favourite place:  the supermarket.  She hated food shopping.  It always took ages.  After lunch, however, her mother took them into town.  All the shops were decorated with tinsel, baubles and fairy lights.  Tamsin loved it.  Whenever she stopped to look at a dress or a box of paints, her mother asked, "Do you like it, darling? Do you think you might like to have it someday?"

"No, thanks, Mummy," she replied.  After all, there was no point in her mother buying her anything when Santa Claus already had her wish list.  Imagine if she got two of the same!

 

When they entered Tamsin's favourite department store, her mother directed them to the toy floor.  "Why are we going there, Mummy?"

"We need to buy something for our neighbour Timmy," the mother replied.  "What do you suppose he'd like?"

"Oh, Timmy only likes cars," Tamsin said with a huff.

 

If ever her grandmother could not pick her up from school, she went home with her neighbour, Timmy and his mum.  They lived in the flat opposite.  Timmy was a year younger than Tamsin, and his mother's cakes weren't nearly as good as the ones her grandmother made.

 

"Oh, look, Tamsin, isn't this the teddy bear you like so much?" her mother suddenly asked.

There they were, arranged in a pyramid atop a velvet puff: the teddy bears Tamsin had seen advertised on television.  Black ones with the red paws, and white ones with blue paws.  She tried to look away from the brown ones with the yellow paws and green bows.  "Er, no... not really," she said.

 

Her mother picked up a car that was a model of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.  "I think Timmy will like this.  Look, you can pull the wings open."

 

They joined the queue to pay.  Tamsin was bored and hot.  Why were they buying a present for Timmy, anyway? It's not as if it was his birthday or anything.

 

Tamsin's mother suddenly took a sharp intake of breath.  "Oh, darling, don't forget you mustn't tell Timmy we bought him the Chitty car.  He's younger than you and he still believes in Santa Claus.  You're a big girl now, you don't believe in all this silly nonsense any more, but don't spoil it for little Timmy."

 

There were suddenly red blotches before Tamsin's eyes.  Everything went quiet, as though she was in a dream.

 

"Tamsin, did you hear me? I'm talking to you.  Darling, you've gone all pale.  Are you not feeling well?"

"Yes, Mummy, all right, I won't tell Timmy."

"Good girl."

 

The rest of the afternoon was a blur.  Tamsin's mother thought they had been out too long and that her daughter was tired.  It was unusual for her to be so quiet.  She even went to bed straight after dinner and did not insist on watching television.

 

*   *   *

 

On Christmas morning, Tamsin did not wake up with the usual excitement.  After breakfast, she sat by the tree and unwrapped a brown teddy bear with yellow paws and a green bow.  She wondered whether it was her mother or her grandmother who'd gone to buy it at the department store.  It was a beautiful, soft bear.  She hugged it and decided to call it Mr Brown.  She kept it with her the whole day and when it was time for bed she put him next to her on the pillow, and stroked his velvet nose.  "Shall I tell you a story?" she whispered.  She felt silly as soon as she had said it.

"Yes, please.  I love stories," came the reply.

Tamsin sat up and turned on the bedside lamp.  There was no one else in the room.  She switched the lamp off again and hugged the bear closer.  

"So, are you going to tell me a story then?"

Tamsin was astonished.  "Is that you, Mr Brown?" she said.

"Well, who else is here?" he replied in a soft, gentle voice.

"But toys don't talk," Tamsin said.

"I do," said the teddy bear.  "Only don't tell anyone."

"It will be our secret," Tamsin whispered.

Then she pulled the duvet over their heads, so her mother would not hear their voices,  and began telling him a story.

 

 

Scribe Doll

 

Recent Comments
Anonymous
Nice story, Katherine. Enjoyed it. But I'm still not sure. Is there Santa Claus or isn't there? I'm 81 now and I need to find ou... Read More
Monday, 21 December 2015 18:02
Katherine Gregor
Ooh, what do you think?
Monday, 21 December 2015 20:25
Stephen Evans
Charming, and Tamsin is such an interesting choice for the girl's name.
Wednesday, 23 December 2015 03:44
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Socially Impaired

I am brusquely jolted from my mellow, Sunday morning slumber.  I've just remembered.  I have to go to a party this afternoon.  Oh, heck.  

 

"I wish I didn't have to go," I tell H. over a plateful of French toast.

 

He's heard this before.  Many times.  Every time we've been invited to a social event involving more than two or three other people.

 

"Oh, I'm really looking forward to it," he says.

 

H. is shy at large gatherings.  I turn into a social butterfly.  He spends a lot of time examining the host's bookshelves.  I flit about, trying to impress as many people as I can.  He is relaxed.  I have a nervous clump in my stomach.  When we first met, H. remarked on how perfectly "in (my) element" I was at parties.  He knows me better now.

 

I get dressed, paint my face and grumble,  H. tactfully avoids pointing out that, had I not been invited, I would be sulking and complaining that "nobody ever invites me anywhere".  He knows me well.

 

We arrive.  H.'s attention is drawn to the books lining the living room walls.  I dive into the fray, flashing smiles, joining in the conversation, my brain on overdrive.  Everybody I speak to is very pleasant, interesting, easy to to talk to.  I enjoy the conversation.  So there's no reason why I should be constantly aware of the clump in my stomach.

 

A couple of hours later, like a cat that's just noticed a chink in a fence, I detect an opportunity for a socially acceptable exit.  I dart in search of H. and can barely repress my irritation at seeing he has just helped himself to cake.  I bristle.  How long is it going to take him to finish that cake? I whizz around kissing, thanking and wishing a happy Christmas.  Oh, good, H. has finished his cake.  Quick, the coats.  Anyone would think I was having a miserable time, yet nothing could be further from the truth.  I fly out of the front door like a bat out of hell, and walk fast along the pavement.  All the time, I'm thinking about how much I liked the people at the party, and how much I'd like to see them again.  At the same time, I can't wait to get home.  I know exactly what I will do once I'm there.

 

The second we're back in our flat, I rush into the kitchen and put the kettle on.  In the living room, I light the fire and all the candles and night lights.  I don't want the lamps on.  Not yet.  I change from my skirt and blouse into my leggings and oversized lambswool man's cardigan.  

 

Within five minutes of coming back home, I am sitting on the floor, staring into the wavering blue flames of the gas fire, sipping almond tea from a bone china mug, listening to the yearning violin of Von Biber's Rosary Sonatas.  The fragrant tea and the music soothe my frantic soul back into my body.  H. comes to sit behind me, on the sofa, and picks up the mug of tea I've left for him on the low table.

 

We sit in silence, except for the shooshing of the gas fire and the soulful baroque violin.

 

The clump in my stomach slowly dissolves, and I feel whole again.

 

"It's all right, we can put the lamps on now, if you like," I say to H. as I get off the floor.  

 

 

Scribe Doll

Recent Comments
Stephen Evans
Charm, and thoroughly familiar ... Read More
Monday, 14 December 2015 00:56
Katherine Gregor
:–) I guess we're introverts, really.
Monday, 14 December 2015 10:08
Anonymous
Seems you're a little young for such an attitude. It's alright for me. I'm 81 and it drives me crazy that I can't convince people ... Read More
Monday, 14 December 2015 03:48
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6 Comments

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