Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Early one morning between Snaresbrook and South Woodford …

I started the best gainful employment I ever had at the age of thirteen.

My day began at 6.00am, and the morning paper-round occupied an hour or so that most people wouldn’t normally use. Mr. Unwin, the newsagent on Hermon Hill, was a very kind employer who paid me 7 shillings and 6 pence a week.

About the same time I learned to whistle, and I would gaily walk the streets whistling my favourite melodies in the cool hush of each morning as I pushed ever-increasing thicknesses of newsprint through inadequate letter-boxes.
Dvorak was my favourite: I could handle all four movements of his 9th Symphony, and my rendition of the adagio was the forerunner of a well-known advertisement for bread.

At the end of Falcon Way, (part of my round,) there was a footbridge traversing the overground section of LT’s Central Line.
One day I stopped whistling to quietly observe an early commuter making his way to the tube station at Snaresbrook.
He wore a pin-striped-suit, a bowler-hat, and bore an immaculately rolled umbrella. With great agility he ascended the steps at the top of which he launched forth with a clarity and purity of voice that was astounding:

“Early one morning …,” he sang … and the Sun rose!

“Wow!” I thought.
A young soul was captivated.

Thereafter my whistling graduated to Rach 2 and those Paganini variations. I even attempted Beethoven’s glorious 5th piano concerto. I was rather good at Sibelius’ Karelia Suite, and for moments of adolescent gloom I took on RVW’s Tallis variations. Schoenberg, of course, was beyond me.

But … every weekday morning I would cease my cacophony at 3 Falcon Way.
If I was early, I would wait.
If it rained, I sheltered under a nearby laburnum tree.
Regularly this man appeared and, to my delight, he would repeat the same ritual.
I wondered about him ...

What was his day-job?
Whence cometh his confidence to greet and celebrate the day in such a public fashion?
I wanted to say, “Hello,” but I was very shy in those days.

Thus was born an interest in folk song.
That city-based financier, or whatever, will never know the gift he gave me, but I thank him.

Here are some lyrics:

Early one morning, just as the sun was rising,
I heard a maid sing in the valley below:
"Oh, don't deceive me, oh, never leave me!
How could you use a poor maiden so?"

"Oh gay is the garland, fresh are the roses,
I've culled from the garden to bind on thy brow.
Oh, don't deceive me, Oh, never leave me!
How could you use a poor maiden so?"

"Remember the vows that you made to your Mary,
Remember the bower where you vowed to be true.
Oh, don't deceive me, oh, never leave me.
How could you use a poor maiden so?"

Thus sung the poor maiden, her sorrow bewailing,
Thus sung the poor maid in the valley below:
"Oh don't deceive me! Oh, never leave me!
How could you use a poor maiden so?

Of course, people my age will remember this from schooldays, and realise that its inclusion in music lessons totally missed the point.

Watch out for the second chapter in this serialised autobiography in due course.

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