Author: Gill Hornby
Published: 2nd June 2016
Today I am delighted to host my stop on the tour for All Together Now by Gill Hornby. On my stop today you get to read a little excerpt of the book.
Typical Bridgeford. Of all the glorious moments in British history to commemorate, it had to pick the 1953 coronation – all austerity and post-war struggle; pebbledash and dodgy taste; the only regal pageant in centuries they’d had to knock off on the cheap. The stolid, mixed-material, mongrel-architectural Coronation Hall sat back from the corner of Church Street in an apron of its own car park and stared out at the town like a plain and disapproving old aunt. It eschewed comfort – its windows were high, its floors dull and dusty, its walls a distempered cream – and offered only the basic barrier to the elements. A bit of weather, in its opinion, never hurt anybody; if it could talk, it would tell you to put on a vest. In the summer it was too hot in there, the rest of the year it was too cold, and on this particular winter’s evening – one of those that before Christmas might have been romantic but now, in January, was simply de trop – it was almost freezing.
The heavy door groaned open, and a gloved hand poked in and felt down the wall for the switch. As the strip lights clicked on, Annie came in and stood for a while, watching the cloud of her warm breath catch in their beam. She was a nice-looking woman, Annie: slight build, fair hair worn in that no-nonsense bob of the frightfully busy. She dressed well – always keeping it politely age-appropriate and, on the whole, looked pretty good for her fifty-nine years. She would probably look even better if she spent less time on others and a bit more on herself, but if she did that – well, then she wouldn’t be Annie. Her face was broad, its smile semi-permanent, it made reference to neither mood nor ego and as a result never quite got the attention it deserved. If people were to notice her at all, it was for her eyes. They were a bright hazel and flickered about her in an urgent sort of way, like there was too much human warmth building up in there and if she didn’t find another human to warm up asap she might just selfcombust – those sort of eyes. In a better world, perhaps, judged by a different set of criteria, Annie Miller would be thought a beauty. In this one, no one thought about her for long enough to form a view.
Annie was first to this evening’s choir practice, as she was first to every Tuesday evening’s choir practice. She kicked the door shut with her low-heeled boot, tucked her wicker basket in the crook of her arm and slipped off her gloves as she trotted across the hall to the little kitchen.
La-la-la-la, lo lo lo
They always began their sessions with an exercise like this – drifting down the tonic scale and then up again, C to C, changing the syllable when changing the note – each singer joining in as soon as they walked in the door. It was one of Lewis’ many, many teambuilding ideas.
Tea-tea-tea-tea, toe toe toe
Tonight, though, Annie’s voice was a little wobbly. For once, she was singing a mournful minor scale, and she sang it as if unsure whether anybody should be singing at all.
Fa-fa-fa-fa, foe foe foe
Putting her basket on the counter, she reached up to the cupboard and took down the chipped and stained cups and saucers. It had long been her job to organise the refreshments for the break, because there was no one else left in Bridgeford with a working knowledge of that kitchen. She would be running the Evergreens’ Lunch Club for the rest of her days simply because she alone knew how to get the urn to boiling point. Word was that yoga on a Wednesday were having to bring their own flasks. If anything untoward were to happen to Annie, there might never be a communal cup of anything in that town again.
The door banged.
—moe moe moe
At last, more voices were joining in with hers. The altos had arrived.