Girl With Dove by Sally Bayley

Girl With Dove by Sally Bayley

Author:Sally Bayley
Language: eng
Format: epub
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Published: 2018-04-03T04:00:00+00:00

21

Learning to Speak Nicely

A month had passed and Gwenda had moved into Hillside. Giles’s aunt’s furniture had come out of store and was arranged round the house. It was good quality old-fashioned stuff … there was a rosewood bureau and a mahogany sofa table. The large Chesterfield sofa was placed near the windows.

(Sleeping Murder)

Then one afternoon I opened the front-room door and found a large chandelier hanging from the ceiling. Sharp crystal daggers were dangling down above Mum’s favourite folding oak table. When the door banged behind me the crystal pyramid shook and trembled. Who, I wondered, could sit beneath that crystal monster and not shake?

But somebody did. A few weeks later a tiny woman called Mrs Rutherford arrived to teach us ‘elocution’. El-o-cu-tion, Mum told us, was learning how to speak nicely, like Margaret Thatcher and the queen. Elocution was holding your mouth wide open so you didn’t crush your vowels.

Elocution came from Mrs Rutherford. Mrs Rutherford was a tiny bird from Pagham Bay who came on Monday afternoons to teach us how to round our vowels.

‘How Now Brown Cow,’ ‘Amo, Amas, Amat, Amamus, Amatis, Amant,’ ‘Shirley Shields Was Very Shirty Especially Early On Sunday Mornings Since She Liked to Sleep In But Her Mother Sheila Said That Only Slothful Girls Slept In On Sundays.’

‘Shirley was shirty because she was dirty – and she knew it.’

‘No, dear. That isn’t right. We’re managing the “s”s today. “Shirley Shields was very shirty especially early on Sunday mornings since she liked to sleep in and slumber.”’

Mrs Rutherford made me stand in the middle of the front room beneath the chandelier to practise my ‘s’s. Whenever I spoke, I had to address the ceiling and imagine that Queen Victoria or Queen Elizabeth was about to greet me at the door. Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth were on the doorstep clasping their bags.

‘Raise your chin, dear. Look up towards the cornices … to the left, then to the right … Slowly, turn your head slowly. Imagine there’s a large crowd in front of you and they are all dying to hear you. You are the queen of England, about to descend from your royal steed. Victoria used to ride out with her favourite manservant, John Brown. Sidesaddle of course, always sidesaddle. Ladies always ride sidesaddle, with their skirts all tucked to one side. Now let’s do our Shakespeare. Fling your arms wide!’

According to Mrs Rutherford, everything had to be done with feeling. Shakespeare was only for people with big feelings. If you didn’t have feeling then you didn’t deserve Shakespeare.

‘With feeling, dear, with feeling. From the diaphragm, dear, nice and slow. Feel the breath moving up from the centre of you. Push down on your diaphragm … Here, dear. Here.’

Suddenly the lady with the tiny face and tall hair was beside me. Mrs Rutherford was pushing her fingers and thumbs into my stomach and ribs. Push, prod, prod.

‘Let the air out, release yourself from here, like a balloon, like a lovely pink balloon – slowly.



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