Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Guest Blogger: Lark on the Wing by Elfrida Vipont

published 1950  chapter 7




[Aspiring singer Kit has taken a job singing at a seaside cafe]

The members of the Trio were very kind to her. They called themselves Kitson’s Blue Girls, and they wore bright blue dresses, all alike. Their names were Flo, Betty and Violet. Usually they hated the solo artists, but Kit looked so frightened that their hearts warmed towards her. “Have you lost your lipstick, dearie?” asked Flo sympathetically. “Just let me touch you a bit. You look like death warmed up.” She ran swiftly through Kit’s programme before they went on. “Bit droopy, isn’t it, dear?” she suggested. “You’ll find they like something cheery.”

The Blue Girls began with a selection from the Mikado, which went down very well indeed, in spite of the fact that nobody seemed to be paying any attention to the music…

As the days went by, Kit learnt to play for safety and pile on the sugar. After all, nobody knew her there. What did it matter if she scooped her top notes and dragged out the phrasing?


observations: After re-reading this childhood favourite, I went to amazon to see what others made of it. One review summed up my feelings so exactly that I have asked Lucy Fisher (see her blog here) to be a guest blogger today. (Obviously I’m not going to refrain from giving my views too – later this week). This is what she thought of the book:
I loved this book as a child - perhaps because I too wanted to be a singer. This time around I skipped over the Quaker bits (by golly they're pious). They worry about the oddest things - should Milly wear a black dress that makes her look too "sophisticated"? Kit has lessons from a tedious character called Papa Andreas who won't let her "sing out" for ages, so she learns a lot of songs in her head (I don't think this would work). Spoiler alert - I think I always wanted Kit to marry Felix. The only scene that comes alive, and which I remember most clearly, is when Kit gets a job singing in a seafront cafe for a week during her holidays. She gets on well with the "common" girls who form a trio and play Gilbert and Sullivan, and they advise her to sing more sentimental songs in a sugary way. She does, and gets applause (her own choice is, as you can imagine, relentlessly high-minded). But then shock! horror! some of her Quaker acquaintances come in for a cup of tea. They react almost as if she has gone on the streets.
As in a Bunty or Judy story (girls comics from the 50s/60) she swiftly gets heard by people who can offer her engagements, winter seasons and a gig singing some religious extravaganza in a local cathedral. She does brilliantly of course. And then she marries the bloke who is always telling her off and was so appalled at her singing in the cafe.

I wish there was a sequel in which she runs off and lives in sin with Felix and sings with a dance band.

So there you have it: thank you Lucy Fisher for an excellent review. More on this book, and Lark in the Morn, the first in the series, later.

The trio in the book were probably more decorous than those in the photo (from the State Library of New South Wales), but as none of it is decorous enough for goody-goody Kit, that seems OK.

5 comments:

  1. I'm honoured! Forgot to point out that "bright blue" was a vulgar colour. My mother used to call it "S blue" for "servant blue"! Bright green was also a nono. (She mellowed.)

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  2. 'Servant blue' is magic. If only I could find a book reference to do it on the blog.... Thanks again Lucy.

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  3. Thanks, Moria, for hosting Lucy.

    Lucy, thanks for your view on this. I honestly never heard of 'servant blue' How interesting! And Kit does sound like the sort of character you could really get to like.

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  4. Margot, if you don't know Lucy's blog you should visit it http://wordcount-richmonde.blogspot.co.uk/ - you're both people very interested in words and language...

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  5. In Monica Dickens' One Pair of Hands she wonders if she should dress in "two slashing shades of green" to get a job as a cook. (Misprint? Did she mean "clashing"?) Blue and green were both tricky and should never be worn together! In Ngaio Marsh's Opening Night a rather effete man wears slightly too bright a shade of green.

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