Short Story – 1 THE DECORATOR

To attempt to relieve the monotony of Self-isolation I will be posting a short story a day…

The Decorator hesitated for a moment; then he spoke “But Sir, I cannot paint.  I mean – I can paint a wall or a ceiling or a door.  But I have never painted a picture, let alone a portrait.”

The Chamberlain smiled. “His majesty knows that, but we have a problem. He was betrothed to the Lady Miranda when he was 12 and she just 9.  He has never seen her and now that she is 16 he must marry or bring shame on her whole family.  But the King is young and headstrong.  He refuses to wed until he sees his bride; he values Beauty over Duty.  You are commissioned to decorate the Lady Miranda’s private quarters I understand”

“Yes, but she, or rather I, will be screened off.  A movable partition of sheets will be hung to prevent even me seeing her accidentally while I work.”

“Well, you will just have to do your best.  Try to catch sight of her and on your return paint her image for his Majesty.”

 The decorator was frightened, but what could he do.  Refusal could result in death; an un-flattering portrait – the King’s wrath.  Besides he had never painted a picture before.  He had never tried, he was a humble decorator. 

His commission began and despite his best efforts he was constantly shielded from the merest glimpse of the Lady; all he could hear was her voice.  Like a vibrant mountain stream it glided and trickled gently over moss-covered rocks.  He was captivated, entranced and bewitched. Returning home he mixed his colours and in broad passes he filled the canvas with wide and bold brush strokes, delicately feathering the colours into each other.  Gentle sunrise yellows snuggled up to soft pinks and curved around clouds of Magenta and Alizarine Crimson; soft purple billows bled into humming-bird blue.  No-one had ever painted anything like it, but the decorator knew that he had captured her voice and her soul.

The Chamberlain was horrified when he saw the decorator’s work.  “This is appalling, the King asked for a portrait, not this mess of hideous colours”

“I am sorry, but it was the best I could do – besides, I think she is lovely.”

When the king saw the painting he demanded to see the decorator. “What does this mean? I asked for a portrait, I can see no image here.”

“Sir, I am a humble decorator.  I never saw the Lady once – all I heard was her beautiful soft voice. And, your Majesty, that is what I painted.”

“It is quite incredible I must admit, such colours, such vibrancy. If she is any way as beautiful and as colourful as her voice here, I will marry her.   But this painting must be removed to my private chambers at once.  No-one else must see this. Ever. Now be gone quick before I change my mind.”

My Record Collection 105

Fad Gadget – a weird one and only the one record Incontinent  (1981).  My partner at the time, Louise, had this record and I really liked it.  It almost prefigured a lot of the techno sounds later in that decade, some great loud sharp drumming and incessantly niggling vocals.  A good but really strange album.

Fairground Attraction – Wow, just rarely does it happen but a band emerges and hits the big time with their debut album and single….and even rarer that they break up while recording their second record.  Formed in 1987, Number one single April 1988, band disbanded September 1989.  So sad because they were simply a brilliant band.  The voice of Eddi Reader (see R) which send shivers down your spine and the song-writing genius of Mark E. Nevin, the band emerged with a perfect sound of laid-back folk and jazz.  But it really was the songs which made them so brilliant. The melodies are joyful and mostly upbeat and the lyrics just take your breath away. Their sole real record ‘The First Of A Million Kisses’, had the hit single ‘Perfect’ but really almost all the songs are wonderful – ‘A Smile and a Whisper’, ‘Find My Love’ and ‘Clare’ really stand out from a very crowded field.   As the band broke up the record company released Ay Fond Kiss in 1990; this was a collection of B sides, most of which I had from the CD singles, but still it is lovely in its own way. Best are a live version of ‘Allelujiah’ and the title track – but it is all good.  So, the band split – Eddi Reader (see R) went on to a solo career which has stumbled along.  She also appeared in a brilliant BBC series about Country and Western singers in Glasgow; ‘You’re Cheatin’ Heart’ (see Y).  But what happened to those lost songs from the second album that never was.  Well in 2003 along came Kawasaki – a live album which featured many of the songs they started recording but never released.   Actually; a great album, half songs from first album and a lot of new stuff, which would have been on the album that never was.  A pity as the songs are great; a bit slower mostly and sadder if anything.  Best are ‘Broken By A Breeze’ and ‘Dangerous’ and ‘Whispers’.  I also of course have The Best of Fairground Attraction.  No surprises but a lovely record too.  What a pity they split…

WTF

Two bits of news about Corona virus which amaze and frighten me.   Number one; Some ‘Government experts’ are apparently recommending that the best course of action (which for all we know may be the strategy the Government are actually taking) is to allow a herd immunity to develop.  In practice this means 60% of the population getting the virus.  The reason given is that then that will stop a return of the virus come next winter as a majority of the population will be immune (as they have already had it) and will therefore not pass it on to others.  Mind you this would still leave 40% of the population who have not had it and have no immunity, so I really don’t see how that will help much.  The most alarming aspect of this however is simple mathematics.  The UK population is 70 million; 60% of that number is 42 million.  Now at the moment the smallest estimate of death rates is that only 1% of those contracting the virus actually die and they are mostly the elderly anyway.  BUT…1 % of 42 million is 420 thousand.  Just think about that.  And of course who knows that 1% is correct.  In Italy at the moment the number is running at over 4 percent; that would give us one million, six hundred thousand dead.  Are they really suggesting this sort of sacrifice; why, we may as well wheel those over 80 in handcarts and burn them alive on funeral pyres.

The other alarming aspect of the ‘Delay’ strategy is that if one has symptoms, simply stay at home for seven days.  DO NOT contact your doctor or a pharmacy or a Hospital. And DO NOT GET YOURSELF TESTED.  I wonder if that is A) sensible in the slightest, and B) the real reason for not being tested is so that the confirmed cases remain nice and low.  The public would be reassured that the Government strategy is working as so few people have got the virus.  

I leave you to make your own judgement….

My Record Collection 104

Evita – Firstly, let me say that I don’t like Musicals; especially the Lloyd Webber type.  However I was a big fan of Julie Covington and when she had a big hit with ‘Don’t Cry For Me Argentina’ I went out and bought the album.  And this was long before the Musical had ever appeared on the stage.  Lloyd Webber and Lyricist Tim Rice had got together a few great singers and recorded the whole thing.  Now, do I like it?  Sort of….in a way.  I love the lyrics and there are a few good tunes in there – but as time goes on it remains a curiosity piece and not a favourite.

Faces – Ah, now that was a band and a half.  Formed out of the remains of The Small Faces after Stevie Marriott left them.  They wanted a new lead guitarist and chose Ronnie Wood who suggested they have a new lead singer too….and along came Rod Stewart (see S) who had played with Wood in Jeff beck’s band.  The rest, as they say, is History.  The complication was that Rod was signed to Mercury records as a solo artist and The Faces were with Warner Brothers.  So, Rod was making at least two albums a year, one with the band and the other, ostensibly a solo but usually with the band too.  All this mattered not a jot until Rod hit the big time with ‘Maggie May’ and agents started calling then band Rod Stewart and the Faces.  But in the beginning, it really was a group effort.  First off the blocks was First Steps (1970).  Well, I never really liked this album, at least to begin with.  It seemed a very tentative record, the band playing stuff they used to play as The Small Face live and trying out a couple of new songs.  At least the whole band gets a look-in on songwriting but there is no cohesion to the record.  Best song by far is Ronnie Lanes (see L) ‘Stone’, a brilliant little song, as all of his with the band were. (incidentally he also recorded this with Pete Townshend (see T).  Two boring instrumentals and a fine song by the two Ronnies ‘Nobody Knows’: a cover of Dylan’s ‘Wicked messenger’ – apart from that the songs don’t really work for me.  But the follow-up Long Player was a real classic.   This was recorded and released before the success of ‘Maggie May’, and as is often the case with just pre-fame albums it brims with great songs.  Best are the three tracks on side one ‘Sweet Lady Mary’, ‘Richmond’ and a great live rendition of McCartney’s ‘Maybe  I’m Amazed’.  Side 2 is a bit sprawling but has ‘Feel So Good’ and the lovely instrumental from Ronnie Wood of ‘Jerusalem’. Later the same year they released ‘A Nod’s As Good As A Wink (to a blind horse)’ which was them reveling in new-found fame,  At this time they really were the best live band in England and had a string of hits (mostly under Rod’s name, but ‘Stay With Me’ from this album. But the best songs on the record are a searing cover of Chick Berry’s ‘Memphis’ and a beautiful Ronnie Lane effort ‘Debris’.  This album also cemented the writing partnership of Rod and Woody, 5 of the 9 songs are by them and 2 by Ronnie Lane.  Stewart and Wood would co-write most of the next few Rod Stewart albums too, before Ronnie eventually succumbed and joined the Stones.  At this time The Who, The Faces and The Stones were all great friends and Ronnie Land and Pete Townshend ended up releasing a couple of albums together while Kenny Jones eventually joined the Who after Keith Moon’s death.  Tensions were rising in the band as Rod’s solo career skyrocketed and several promoters were adding the Faces as his backing band.  Their final album was 1973’s ‘Ooh La La’ which Rod missed much of the recording of due to solo promotional work. In fact, Rod dismissed the album as rubbish, despite it getting to number 1 in the UK.  Later this year Ronnie Lane, who was really the creative force behind the band left and was replaced by relatively unknown bass player Tetsu Yaumichu.  They went on to release a couple of singles and toured for a couple of years but failed to make it back into the studio as a band.  Wood eventually left for The Stones and Rod, already a solo superstar said goodbye to the band too.  Who knows what would have happened had Rod not achieved such fame with ‘Maggie May’.  Anyway, the album Ooh La La is really a Ronnie inspired record; well, not a bad album really though one always felt they could do better.  Great single ‘Cindy Incidentally’ is by far the best song. Nothing else on the album comes up to scratch except the title track sung by Lane.  Such a pity, and almost certainly Rod was saving all his best songs for his own albums.   A live album Coast to Coast, Overtures and Beginners came out in 1974,  This was credited to Rod Stewart and the Faces, relegating them to his backing band; the songs are mostly from Rod’s solo albums but there are a couple of covers; ‘I wish It would Rain’ and ‘Jealous Guy’ that stand out and make the album worth having.   I of course have one of the many Greatest Hits compilations and it shows what a great band they could be at times.

First Step (180 Gram Vinyl) by The Faces