FIONA COMPTON – PEN NAME FOR MY FICTIONAL WRITING

About Fiona Compton

About Fiona Compton

In order not to cause confusion between my non-fiction writing (published in my own name of Jean Collen, I am publishing fiction under the name of Fiona Compton. I have created a Facebook page for FIONA COMPTON – WRITER

If you are registered on Facebook, please like this page and follow it. All my novels and a collection of short stories have a musical theme. They are available at FIONA’S STORE – FICTION WITH A MUSICAL THEME

I have created a separate wordpress page for my fiction writing at: FIONA COMPTON’S FICTION

Third novel in the Malcolm Craig series

Third novel in the Malcolm Craig series

I have completed the third novel in the Malcolm Craig series and have published the book as a paperback and as an Epub E-book. Read more about the new book and the two previous books at: Fiona’s Store – fiction with a musical theme

Here is a random sample from the book:

Kate – April 1962

After I finished my secretarial course I was working in the cables department of a city bank in Simmonds Street. I was taking lessons in piano and singing and preparing for various exams so I had to get up at the crack of dawn to practise my scales in singing and piano before I went to work. I was exhausted by the end of the day! Liz was on her April school holiday but I was working a five and a half day week in the bank with no sign of any holiday in view. My father had promised that if I did well in the exams he might allow me to leave the bank and study singing and piano full time until I completed my diplomas in both subjects so I was determined to do well no matter how exhausted I was. Becoming a professional musician was far more appealing to me than spending the rest of my life typing out letters and cables in the bank, and working overtime when the Rhodesian Sweep cables arrived and had to be decoded so that the bank could notify all the lucky winners that they had won a lot of money in the sweep.

One day Liz phoned during my lunch hour. She was very excited.

“Malcolm needs a small studio audience for his Edwardian programme tomorrow night  and he’s just phoned to ask if I’d like to go. I suppose he’s been in touch with you too, Kate?” she asked.

My heart sank for he hadn’t asked me. I felt a stab of pure jealousy that my friend had been asked to go to the recording and Malcolm hadn’t bothered to ask me.

“No, he hasn’t phoned me,” I replied, barely able to speak for my mouth had dried up completely. “Perhaps he’s not planning on asking me at all.”

Liz was silent for a moment. She had probably assumed that Malcolm would invite me and she must have known that I was feeling very hurt not to have been invited.

“Well, it’s still not too late. Maybe he’ll phone you once you get home,” she said brightly, and then found an excuse to ring off quickly rather than commiserate with me any further. I continued eating the sandwiches my mother had made for my lunch, although I could hardly swallow them because there was a persistent lump in my throat. I did my best to keep a brave face and not let the tears that were welling up in my eyes run down my cheeks.

Malcolm

Marina and I were having a snack lunch in the studio. Eunice always managed to think of something interesting to put in our lunch boxes. As far as I was concerned the lunch break was the best part of our day in the studio. I really was not cut out to teach other people how to sing. I had managed to get out of most of the morning’s lessons by spending time in the office telephoning friends to invite them to the recording the following evening.

“I think I’ve contacted enough people for the recording tomorrow,” I said to Marina.”We don’t want too many in that small studio otherwise the applause will sound like Wembley Stadium at the cup final instead of a few genteel guests in a refined Edwardian drawing room. I had to laugh at Liz. She was so terribly excited about it. She could hardly contain herself!”

“Did you manage to get through to Kate?” asked Marina. “I know it’s sometimes difficult to get through to her at the bank when it’s busy.”

“Kate? I didn’t think of phoning her at all. I stopped phoning when I reached the right number.”

“But you know she and Liz are such great friends now. She’ll be terribly disappointed if you don’t ask her and she finds out that Liz is going. I wouldn’t be surprised if Liz didn’t phone her right away to tell her the exciting news. You know how they both adore you!”

I hadn’t even thought about whether Kate would be disappointed, but I realised that Marina was quite right. Kate would be very hurt indeed if I didn’t invite her to the recording. Despite her reserve, I didn’t need Marina to tell me that she thought a lot of me. She was probably as fond of me as I was of her. Why on earth hadn’t she been the first person I phoned instead of leaving her out altogether?

I looked up her number in the studio diary and made the call. I don’t think I have ever heard anyone happier to hear my voice in years.

“Will it be you and your parents, Kate, or do you want to bring your boyfriend with you too?”

I hoped she didn’t have a boyfriend, but if she did, I’d have to put a good face on it and receive the spotty youth with good grace.

“I haven’t got a boyfriend,” she replied in a small voice. For some reason I was very pleased to hear this. “It’ll just be me and my parents. Thank you so much for asking us, Mr Craig.”

There was a pause and she added, “I thought you had forgotten me.”

“Never, darling,” I lied bluffly. “Marina and I will meet you in the foyer of Broadcast House at half past seven. You won’t be late, will you?”

“No – we’ll be sure to be there on time,” Kate assured me solemnly.

Kate

We were usually pretty casually dressed when we went to rehearsals for the choir. Sometimes Liz was still wearing her blue school uniform if she hadn’t had time to change after some activity at school in the afternoon. We had never seen any of the other broadcasters formally dressed when they arrived at Broadcast House to record their programmes or read the news, although we had heard that BBC news readers had worn evening dress to read the news in the nineteen-thirties – and possibly beyond.

I was glad that Liz and I had dressed smartly for this particular trip to Broadcast House. When we arrived in the brightly lit foyer, there was Malcolm Craig clad in evening dress with a flower in his lapel, while Marina Dunbar wore a low-cut red evening dress, with a mink stole around her shoulders. Their great friend, widower Steve Baxter, a well-known broadcaster on Springbok radio, was obviously going to attend the recording too for he was also formally clad for the occasion although his usual attire for his own broadcasts was a sports jacket and open-necked shirt.

Although she was not taking part in the broadcast Marina was playing hostess to the people Malcolm had assembled for the recording. She ushered us all into the small studio where the recording was to take place and urged everyone to take their seats.

“Keep a seat for me in the front row, won’t you darlings,” she said to Liz and me.

Our parents sat together further back while Liz and I took our seats in the front row on either side of the coveted seat we were saving for Marina, or Miss Dunbar as I still called her. We were beside ourselves with excitement. Malcolm seated himself at a small table to the right of us, ready to begin the recording when he received the nod from the controllers who were seated in the enclosed glass booth at the back of the studio. He took a sip from the glass in front of him and glanced around at the audience.

Liz’s father asked in joking tones, “What’s that you’re drinking, Malcolm?”

“Water,” he replied dryly!

There was no further repartee between them after that exchange. Malcolm told us to clap politely after the items and talk in undertones to each other to create the atmosphere of a refined Edwardian drawing room. Although most of the audience applauded after the violinist and soprano had finished performing, it was only Marina who chatted to us brightly about the performers, and Liz and I did our best to respond with the necessary degree of ladylike decorum. For some reason everyone else seemed overwhelmed by the occasion and uttered not a word.

Malcolm got up from his chair in the corner and walked over to a spot directly in front of us to sing two ballads. Of course I had heard some of his recordings on the radio and I had heard his voice in the studio when he was showing me or one of the other pupils how to sing something properly. I had even heard him singing the Messiah when I was 13, but to experience him singing right in front of me was something I would never forget. Oh, Dry Those Tears and Parted – both sad Edwardian ballads, which he sang in his beautiful voice with all the feeling he could muster. I was completely mesmerised! I almost forgot that I had to chat politely with Marina and Liz after he stopped singing.

At the end of the recording everyone surged around him, congratulating him on his performance. Liz and I were the last in a long line of his admirers.

Malcolm asked us jokingly, “Well, was I all right?”

“All right? You were brilliant, Malcolm!” said Liz with all the confidence of youth.

“I’m glad you approve,” smiled Malcolm. “Perhaps you’ll come to some of the other recordings if you enjoyed this one.”

We nodded eagerly. I certainly couldn’t wait for the next time!

As we left the studio, I caught sight of Marina chatting to Steve Baxter while Malcolm was having a serious discussion with the accompanist. I thought I should say goodbye to her before we left, but I had the impression that she was not pleased that I had interrupted her intimate conversation with Steve Baxter.

“I’m so glad I was able to attend the recording,” I said. “Mr Craig was wonderful.”

“Yes, darling. We’re both very proud of him, aren’t we?” she replied in mocking tones, patting me on my arm. My face grew hot with embarrassment. and I suddenly felt deflated and childish. I realised then that I would be well advised not to offer such fulsome praise in future! Marina and Steve must have thought me very young and gauche.

After that magical evening it was difficult to settle down to sleep and it was a particularly dull thud that I had to force myself awake early in the morning to be in time to catch my regular bus with the other workers on their way to spend all day in shops and offices in the city.

Several months later, I did my music exams in piano and singing. Liz and an Afrikaans girl called Sonette du Preez, another pupil of Malcolm and Marina’s did their exams at the same time and Marina accompanied us all. Liz and I were suitably impressed by Sonette’s beautiful soprano voice when we heard her singing through the door of the the exam room. We decided that she had a much better voice than either of us and would probably do brilliantly in the exam

On Friday I went up to the studio apprehensively, wondering whether the exam results might have arrived. Malcolm answered the door and said heartily:

“I believe you sang very well on Tuesday, my gel!”

I looked at him intensely and said, “No, I was absolutely awful.”

“How do you think you did?”

“I’ve probably failed,” I replied with conviction.

He gave a little chuckle and marched back into the studio, leaving me to wait in the kitchen till Sonette finished her lesson. He called me in excitedly and handed me my card. I had obtained honours for Grade 8. I always expected the worst so I was always surprised if I did well. When I heard that Sonette with her brilliant voice had only managed 72 per cent for Grade 5, a mere pass, I felt disproportionately pleased, while congratulating her. Liz had passed Grade 6 with 72 per cent also. Marina and Malcolm seemed delighted with my results, and for most of that lesson, we drank tea and made firm plans for my diploma. Marina was wearing a black derby style hat and looked particularly striking in it. We all got on so well together that day.

I got honours for the piano exam too. My father was suitably impressed and agreed that I could stop working in the bank soon and study music on a full time basis.

Fiona Compton

The first and second books in this series, Just the Echo of a Sigh

First novel in the Malcolm Craig series

First novel in the Malcolm Craig series

The second novel in the series is Faint Harmony

Second novel in the Malcolm Craig series.

Second novel in the Malcolm Craig series.

Other fiction books by Fiona Compton are: I Can’t Forget You:

Fiona Compton's first novel.

Fiona Compton’s first novel.

The Song is Ended and other stories:

Short stories with a musical theme

Short stories with a musical theme

Fiona Compton©

26 August 2015.

The Queen Mother Opens Wheathampstead Secondary School (1967)


I taught music and drama at Wheathampstead Secondary School, Herts from 1966 to 1968 and have fond memories of the children I taught.  My colleague, Vera Brunskill was a flautist and had a recorder group.  She and I taught ourselves the guitar and worked with groups of children who were keen to learn the instrument in the days when the Beatles were all the rage.  I have a recording of a number of the children who were keen enough to give up their break to come in to the music room to work at their singing.   In particular I remember Reginald Dyke and Denis Andrews, who sang duets together, Sheila Faulkner, Mary Rose, Simon Hedley, and Jeanette Wright. I wonder where they are now!

Wheathampstead Secondary School library. Mrs Vera Brunskill (flute), Jean Campbell (Collen) (guitar) and children playing and singing Cheelo, Cheelo.
 
       I directed several plays at the school and enjoyed the improvised drama classes, where everyone let their imaginations run wild, although imagination was often tempered with TV series of the time, notably Till Death Us Do Part!
From the Herts Advertister.
         During the time I was there the school was officially opened by the Queen Mother. We all spent a great deal of time practicing our curtsies for the moment when the headmaster, Mr JD Thomas would present us to the Queen Mother.  Her private secretary came to the school several months before her visit to ascertain what she would discuss with each person being presented to her.
        Although I am British by birth, I had lived in South Africa and had studied singing with Anne Ziegler and Webster Booth, who were living in Johannesburg at that time. I was told that the Queen Mother would discuss South Africa and my association with Anne and Webster, whose singing she had always enjoyed.
     The day of the visit was very exciting for staff and students alike. The music pupils and I played and sang Cheelo Cheelo, a South African folk song made popular by Miriam Makeba, for the Queen Mother in the school library.  I still have several photographs of us in that performance, and being presented to her afterwards.  She was very charming and I’m sure everyone who was present will remember that memorable day thirty-six years ago.
Me, Mrs Covey-Crump (in background) Queen Mother, Mr J.D. Thomas, Vera Brunskill.

I returned to South Africa in 1968, where I met my husband and married in 1970.  I kept in touch with some of the children for a while, and with Vera Brunskill until the early 1990s.  I was sorry to hear that the school in Butterfield Road is no longer there, and that it closed in 1987 under controversial circumstances,  as it began with great promise and had so many wonderful open-hearted children and staff. 

The Record Contract – a musical story

THE RECORD CONTRACT

 

Gingerly Heather Craig nibbled on the thin slice of dry toast and drained her cup of weak black tea. The morning sickness was getting worse and she didn’t know if she could hide her pregnant state from Malcolm for much longer. She was relieved that she had an appointment with her gynaecologist that morning, and not a moment too soon.

Mrs Hubbard bustled into the dining room with the first post. Malcolm’s agent had forwarded the week’s fan mail, so she put the pile of letters at Malcolm’s place. The pile was not quite as high as it had been four or five years earlier, but it was still sizeable. In contrast, Heather received a few accounts and the weekly letter from her mother. Heather noticed that the month’s copy of Gramophone had arrived, probably containing the anticipated review of Malcolm’s first long-playing record.

Heather decided to read the review before Malcolm came down for breakfast. He was due at the recording studios later that morning for his regular recording session. She had difficulty in locating the review as it was much shorter than she had anticipated. As she read the brief review her nausea returned, this time brought on by shock and dismay. One sentence stood out above all the others.

“Only Malcolm Craig’s most ardent fans will enjoy this innocuous collection of highly forgettable songs.”

Heather heard Malcolm’s footsteps on the staircase and hurriedly hid the periodical under her chair. This spiteful piece was the last thing he needed to see before his recording session and the Watford concert that evening.

“You’re up early, darling,” he remarked as he planted a kiss on the top of her blonde head. “Have another cup of tea and keep me company while I eat.”

Malcolm poured some strong tea into her cup, but she knew she would not be able to take a sip of it.

Malcolm glanced perfunctorily through his post.

“No sign of the Gramophone?” he asked casually.

“Perhaps it’ll come by the second post.” Heather tried to sound light and cheerful, willing her warring stomach to settle down. She bent down and somehow managed to hide the offending periodical under her red dressing gown, before fleeing from the table. Just in time she managed to reach the privacy of the bathroom before nausea overwhelmed her completely. Malcolm would have to wait until tomorrow before he faced some unpleasant reading.

-0-

It was March 1951 and Malcolm Craig’s recording contract was due for renewal. The ritual was always the same. Each year, for the last twenty years, Frank Downey, the managing director of the famous BRG recording studio in Wigmore Street, would arrive before the session and invite Malcolm into his office to sign the new contract when he had finished his work. The business concluded, Downey would offer him a tot of his excellent single malt whisky.

“How are you, Malcolm?” Frank Downey greeted Malcolm Craig effusively. “Would you mind calling into my office after your recording session? I have some business to discuss with you.”

Malcolm Craig recorded the eight selected songs in less than three hours. He was an excellent sight-reader, so all he needed was a brief run through with the eminent accompanist, George Manning, before he was ready to lay the cake on the table.

He listened to the takes with his producer and George Manning, then, satisfied with the morning’s work, made his way up to Frank Downey’s sumptuous office to find the gentleman already hovering at the door ready to greet him.

Downey ushered Malcolm to the plush leather chair facing his large oak desk. Usually the contract was lying on the desk waiting for him, a gold Schaeffer pen near at hand, ready for him to sign on the dotted line. But today the desk was bare and Malcolm speculated about the empty desk and why Downey appeared so fidgety and uncomfortable.

“Is the contract late?” Malcolm asked, trying not to show concern.

“That’s what I wanted to discuss with you, Malcolm,” Frank began. “What with the advent of the LP and changes in people’s taste since the war, your records are just not selling the way they used to.”

Downey watched Malcolm’s rugged face slowly lose its colour. He really had not reckoned on the man passing out on him.

Despite his pallor, Malcolm spoke in measured tones.

“Frank, I’ve known you too long to listen to a lot of soft soap. Are you telling me you’re not renewing my contract?”

“I’m so sorry, Malcolm. I fought against it of course, but I was outvoted.”

As though to console Malcolm, he added brightly, “You’re not the only one to suffer – we’re not renewing the contracts of many of our gifted pre-war artistes. They’re all still in good voice, but there’s no demand for them these days. I’m really sorry.”

Malcolm’s legs were trembling. Despite being nearly fifty, and one of Britain’s’ greatest and most versatile tenors, he was close to tears. He was still in the prime of his vocal life, and here he was being discharged like an indolent office boy. He was due to sing at a concert in Watford that evening. After this blow he would need all his professional expertise to carry the engagement off successfully.

He rose to his feet, willing himself to leave with dignity before he broke down.

“There’s nothing more to be said then,” he said baldly. “No doubt you’ll send any money owing to my agent.”

“Please don’t leave like this, Malcolm! Have a whisky with me for old time’s sake,” pleaded Downey.

What was there left to discuss now that he had no contract binding him to the company? The whisky would choke him. He turned on his heel and walked out of the office, and left the building without a word of farewell to anyone. He gained the privacy of his Wolseley, lit a forbidden Capstan and drew on it deeply. Concert and radio dates had been falling off a bit lately, but he and Heather relied on the steady income from his recordings to keep them in comfort. What was he to tell her?

He made his way to his comfortable home in Hampstead, aware that he would probably never drive the same route again. He wondered whether his voice, the splendid gift he had taken for granted since childhood, could be failing him. But that couldn’t be right. He had just heard the recordings he had made that very day. His voice sounded better than ever. As he edged the big car slowly up the driveway, he glimpsed Heather, in tiny pink shorts and a bright seersucker top, sunbathing on a deck chair near the rose bower.

He had met Heather in a concert party in Margate, a few years after he had signed his first record contract, a gorgeous blonde of twenty, with sea green eyes and a complexion like a ripe peach. Her stunning looks and charm excused the fact that her voice, though pretty and sweet, was merely run of the mill. She had managed to make a stage career for herself because of her looks and charming personality.

They had fallen in love, and spent every free moment together, mingling with the holidaymakers licking cornets, while their children were having special treats seated on the staid donkeys on the beach. The light-hearted atmosphere on the seafrom contrasted with their seaside lodgings where they were surrounded by elderly corseted widows in the dining room and the lounge.

They were married at the end of the season and Heather was only too happy to stop attending audition calls to take on her new role as Malcolm’s dutiful and loving wife. In those heady days he was in great demand for West End musicals, oratorios, Masonic Concerts, recording and broadcasting for the BBC, Radio Luxembourg and Radio Normandy.

Malcolm’s successful singing career gave them all the luxuries of life, but their mutual desire for children remained unfulfilled. Heather had twice fallen pregnant, but had miscarried both times. They eventually accepted that they would be childless and transferred their thwarted parental instincts to their two Scotties, Whisky and Soda.

Malcolm emerged from his reverie and watched Heather as she lounged, half-asleep in the sun without a care in the world. The two dogs had been cavorting around the garden, always with half an eye on their beloved mistress, but now they bounded in his direction to greet him with an effusion he found difficult to reciprocate that day.

-0-

Heather had kept her appointment with her gynaecologist. Dr Urquhart, an elderly Scot, did a thorough unhurried examination to which Heather submitted with stoicism. She had been through such inspections before to no avail. At the age of forty she had not held out very great optimism that she could have a child at such an advanced stage of life.

“I can safely say your pregnancy is going smoothly, Mrs Craig,” he said with a rare smile. “You’ll have to take things easy for you are not young as far as child-bearing is concerned and you have had two problem pregnancies before, but if you look after yourself I see no reason why you shouldn’t carry this infant to full term.”

-0-

“Darling!”

Heather had seen Malcolm’s car at last and hurried to him, eager to kiss him and tell him her glad news right away, but her elation evaporated at the sight of his haggard face.

“Did you sign your new contract?” she asked uncertainly, knowing before he spoke that all was far from well.

“There is no new contract,” Malcolm murmured under his breath. “I’m finished at BRG. I’m sorry, darling.”

Heather took his hand in hers, hurt to see her usually cheerful uncomplicated husband so downcast.

“It doesn’t make sense. You’ve never sounded better. Did Frank give you an explanation? There must be a mistake.”

“They’re getting rid of a lot of us pre-war singers because public tastes have changed. The British public prefers crooners these days. I fear my days as a singer are numbered.”

“Nonsense! As soon as other companies hear you’re free they’ll jump at you,” said Heather hopefully.

“I don’t think so,” replied Malcolm dejectedly. “I’m getting an old man.”

“Rubbish!” she said. “You’re not even fifty. You have years ahead of you as a singer.”

“I’m too upset to talk about it. I still have to get through that concert in Watford tonight, though I don’t know if I’ll have the strength to do so.”

Her heart went out to him in his misery. She decided to postpone her news until after the concert. The copy of the Gramophone was under her side of the mattress. It would be a while before she would produce it. He didn’t need another knock for a while.

Malcolm bathed and changed, then sat on his favourite chair in the drawing room, absentmindedly stroking one of the Scotties, idly regarding the Spanish cabinet, the Chappell grand piano, the Wilton carpets, and the fine antiques, all the beautiful possessions he and Heather had acquired from the money he had earned over the years. How could they afford to go on living like this now his career was on the wane?

He was surprised to see Heather emerge in her low-cut red evening gown – always his favourite – with the diamond necklace he had given her for her last birthday gleaming at her throat.

“‘You take my breath away Heather,” he remarked with a gentle smile. “I didn’t know you were going out this evening.”

“I’m going out with you to your concert,” she replied. “It’s a long time since I heard you singing in public. You‘re still the greatest tenor in Britain whether you have that contract or not.”

He knew she was being kind but he was comforted by her presence on the trip to Watford. The concert was sold out, and a group of ardent fans was waiting for him at the stage door of The Playhouse.

Thousands admired his voice, but this small coterie of fans bought all his records, collected his press cuttings, and travelled to all his concerts up and down the UK if they had money to spare. Over the years, he had developed a personal relationship with them and he and Heather sent them Christmas cards and sometimes complimentary tickets for one or other of his appearances.

Singing had certainly given him an insight into vagaries of human nature he would never have experienced had he been voiceless and working in the family butchery alongside his two older brothers.

Heather watched him brace his shoulders to face his fans with good grace. Although it was the last thing she felt like doing, she smiled as she wafted quickly through the crowd, knowing it was Malcolm they really wanted to talk to.

“Hello, Geraldine. Don’t tell me you’ve come all the way from Manchester just for tonight. David and Veronica – lovely to see you again.”

Malcolm was always genuinely pleased to greet his loyal fans. Tonight especially it cheered him to see their friendly faces glowing with pleasure at his kind words.

“We couldn’t believe that review in the Gramophone,” said Veronica. “I’ve already written to the editor to say that it was a disgraceful criticism. The reviewer ought to offer you an apology.”

“The review? You mean the review of my LP record?”

For the second time that day, Malcolm’s face lost all its colour.

“Was it very bad?” he asked in a small voice.

“Quite uncalled for,” said David, as the others nodded their agreement. “But don’t you worry, Malcolm. We think you’re still the greatest tenor in the world – never mind just in Britain. We’ll all be buying your LP.”

Malcolm tried to smile.

“I hope you enjoy the concert. I’ll probably see you all afterwards. God bless you for being here tonight.”

He went to the Green Room to warm up with George Manning, who had played for him at BRG earlier that day, and had booked him for tonight’s concert.

“I’m so sorry about the contract, Malcolm,” George said. “Frank was distressed when you left so suddenly.”

“Not half as distressed as me!” replied Malcolm dryly.

He caught a glimpse of his beloved Heather sitting in the prompt corner and raised his hand to her. Even without the record contract and news of the bad notice in the Gramophone, he was still the luckiest man alive to have such a beautiful and loving wife. As he walked onto the stage, the audience rose to cheer him before he had even sung a note. He was engulfed in the warmth of their sincere affection.

He raised his hand and immediately they sat down, waiting in silence for the recital to begin. George began playing the opening bars of Schubert’s To Music. Malcolm’s earlier ordeal had put him on his mettle. He sang better than he had ever done before. They were stamping for him at the end and he sang several encores, finishing with I leave my heart in an English Garden from Dear Miss Phoebe by Harry Parr-Davies. The show had opened at the Phoenix Theatre the year before and was still running.

Although his mood had lifted, he dreaded the mayoral reception, but it was in his honour so it would be bad manners to disappoint the guests and go straight home as he longed to do.

When he and Heather entered the reception, the guests applauded, although most of them were not music lovers, but the well-heeled influential great and good of Watford. To Malcolm’s surprise, he saw George, already settled with his whisky and soda, chatting easily to Frank and Lucille Downey. He thought he had seen the last of Frank for a long time and he certainly didn’t want any more of him now, but Frank was bounding towards him relentlessly.

“I’ve never heard you sing better,” he told Malcolm effusively.

“So why is my contract not being renewed?” enquired Malcolm.

“We may still be able to offer you a bit of work on an ad hoc basis here and there, with all the music we’ll be putting on to the LP format. That’s what I had wanted to tell you before you rushed off this morning. After all, aren’t you one of the most versatile tenors in Britain today?”

Frank Downey was relieved to see that Malcolm was slightly mollified by his remark, although he said nothing.

Heather and Malcolm left the party early. He longed to shut out the world of fans, admirers, detractors and record producers, without giving a thought to singing. He wanted to relax with Heather in his arms.

When they were in bed, Heather said, “I have some news, but it might not be as welcome as I thought it would be when I saw Dr Urquhart.”

“You’re not ill?”

Malcolm realised that the cancelled record contract was nothing in the scheme of things compared with his darling Heather being in poor health. Now that he looked at her properly, she did look ratherpale and drawn.

“I’m pregnant, darling. I have been for a few months but I thought I was starting the menopause early so I didn’t say anything until I saw Dr Urquhart today. He seems to think I’m over the danger period, but I’ll have to take things very easy for the rest of my pregnancy.”

Malcolm took Heather gently in his arms and kissed her, all thoughts of the lost record contract and the bad review forgotten.

“I’ll make sure you take things easy, darling,” he said. “The contract pales into insignificance when I think of holding our baby in my arms at last.”

It had been a funny old day with highs and lows as wide as his extraordinary singing range. He was glad it had ended on a high, he thought, as he lay close to Heather.

Towards the end of 1951, he signed a lucrative record contract with Mellotone Records. A week later Heather gave birth to their adorable little boy.

 

Good Reads Book Reviews

The Moon And SixpenceThe Moon And Sixpence by W. Somerset Maugham
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Apparently Strickland was based on the artist Paul Gauguin, but if this was the case, there is a very loose connection between the two for this in not a novel a clef. The book held my interest while the narrator had personal contact with Strickland and his wife. Almost from the beginning of the novel, before Charles Strickland had appeared, I thought him a thoroughly reprehensible character.

Admittedly his wife was not an imaginative woman and used her established position in society to cultivate the society of writers and artists although she appeared to be devoid of any artistic talent herself. She obviously regarded her "dull" husband as nothing more than a meal-ticket and she had never encouraged his artistic inclinations. It is only after he leaves her to her own devices that she manages to pull herself together, fend for herself and look after her children without being dependent on a man any longer.

The portrait of a completely self-centred, inarticulate Strickland, who does not care about the opinion of others was well-drawn but after the narrator is no longer in personal contact with Strickland and the rest of the story of Strickland's life is related to him by a third person the story is less satisfactory. I have to admit that I did not finish the last fifty pages of the book. Although I like Maugham's work, this was not my favourite Maugham novel.

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Post a Book

We post stories. You enjoy them.

FIONA COMPTON'S FICTION

This blog has been created to promote Fiona Compton's fiction. All her books are available at: http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/fiona_compton

Footlight Notes

Celebrities of popular entertainment, 1850s - 1920s

britishmusichallsociety

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Current & Breaking News | National & World Updates

Save our iMfolozi Wilderness

HELP SAVE the iMfolozi Wilderness Area by saying NO to the Fuleni Coal Mine and YES to keeping Wilderness Areas sacred.

Johannesburg 1912 - Suburb by suburb research

"What is fashionable now is despised by the next generation, thought quaint by the following and revered by the one thereafter"

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Norman Lebrecht on shifting sound worlds

WAR HISTORY ONLINE

THE PLACE FOR MILITARY HISTORY NEWS AND VIEWS

My Grilling Life - Jani Allan

Sautéing and Satire. Blue Jasmine story about someone who was a household name in South Africa who becomes a waitress in New Jersey.

Marc Latilla

"The best thing is surprising people, knowing that tomorrow it will all be forgotten" Regine Zylberberg

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Bowlly Radio

Writer, Editor, Proof-reader, Musician

Edwardian Promenade

Your #1 source for Edwardian history!

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