The People's Friend

SERIES On Wings Of Song

A mystery voice charms Lizzie and her neighbour.

- by Joyce Begg

ON Thursdays Lizzie and her neighbour, Gina, got home from work at the same time, early enough to enjoy an hour or two in the garden.

“Do you fancy a cup of tea on the lawn?” Lizzie asked as they separated at her driveway. “We might as well make the most of the sun. Dear knows how long it will last.”

Gina hesitated.

“I was going to do a bit of weeding, but –”

Sensing that her neighbour was weakening, Lizzie went on.

“Or we could make that a glass of wine?”

Gina nodded.

“I’ll be there.”

Ten minutes later Gina appeared with a packet of fancy biscuits and helped Lizzie extract the loungers from the garden shed. It took a couple of minutes to decide on the best position for the chairs, out of the shade and close to the roses, which were exuding the most powerful summer scent.

At last they were settled, wine in hand, faces turned to the sun. “Perfect.” Gina sighed. A few birds set up a chorus in the oak tree and there was a hum of bees from the lavender bush. “Bliss,” Lizzie agreed. The idyll was interrupte­d by the sound of a powerful tenor voice, a couple of houses away.

Lizzie sat up.

“Who on earth is that?” “Ah,” Gina said. “It’ll be Mrs Murchie’s roofer.”

Mrs Murchie, on the far side of Gina, was having work done on her roof by three men, one of whom was apt to serenade the neighbourh­ood with ballads and operatic arias.

“He appeared yesterday,” Gina went on. “He’s some singer, isn’t he?”

Lizzie went instantly into recruitmen­t mode.

“Is he local?”

Gina laughed.

“No idea. We could always ask him when he comes down.”

The song lasted for only a few bars and then stopped.

“That’s kind of irritating,” Lizzie said. “Either sing the whole thing or don’t start.”

“I know what you mean. But it’s a lovely sound. They could be playing pop music up there, which would really jar with the sound of the bees.”

Lizzie agreed, and the pair of them sipped their wine and settled back down.

Half an hour later, after a few snatches of “Santa Lucia” and “Please Release Me”, it became evident that the roofers were packing up for the day. Lizzie and Gina could hear the sound of the men calling to each other as they climbed down the scaffoldin­g.

“Let’s ask.” Lizzie got up out of her lounger. “We can’t possibly turn down the chance to talk to a tenor. For all we know, he might live in Kildartie.”

As Lizzie and Gina made their way along the road to where the van was parked outside Mrs Murchie’s house, they tried to guess which one of the three was the singer.

“Excuse us for asking,” Lizzie said, approachin­g the first, a youngster who might just be an apprentice, “but which of you is the singer?” “Oh, that’ll be Ricardo.” Ricardo was certainly built along Caruso lines, small in stature and with a barrel chest. His Mediterran­ean complexion and dark curly hair completed the illusion. Lizzie smiled winningly. “Hello. We just came to see who has been entertaini­ng us. You sound wonderful.”

There was a bit of banter from his mates, though the girls could see that they were secretly rather proud of their very own Italian tenor.

When he spoke, however, it was clear that Ricardo had lived in Scotland all his life.

“Do you sing in a choir?” Lizzie asked. “Because if you don’t, you should!”

Ricardo grinned, revealing a perfect set of teeth.

“No, no. I sing at parties and New Year, and that. But I can’t read a note of music.”

“You could fix that,” Gina said. “It’s not as hard as people think.” Ricardo laughed. “Och, I’m too old to bother. I just like singing. The boys will tell you.”

The boys nodded in heartfelt agreement.

“He likes singing whether we want it or not.”

The banter carried on while the men got their equipment on to the van.

“Have you come far?” Lizzie asked, reluctant to give up on a possible recruit for the Singers. “Thirty miles.”

“Ah.” Even for Caruso, that was quite a drive on a winter evening.

“We’ll be back tomorrow,” the young apprentice said. “Any requests?”

“I wouldn’t mind hearing ‘Santa Lucia’ right the way through,” Lizzie said. Ricardo blushed.

“I’ll see what I can do.”

More next week.

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