A bit of singing and dancing егэ ответы

A bit of singing and dancing 18 a bit of singing and dancing she walked very close to the water,

A
Bit of Singing and Dancing

18

A
Bit of Singing and Dancing

She
walked very close to the water, where there was a rim of hard, flat
sand, easier on her feet than the loose shelves of shingle, which
folded one on top of the other, up to the storm wall. She thought, I
can stay out here just as long as I like. I can do anything I choose,
anything at all, for now I am answerable only to myself.

But
it was an unpromising afternoon, already half dark, an afternoon for
early tea and banked-up fires and entertainment on television. And a
small thrill went through her as she realized that that, too, was
entirely up to her, she could watch whichever programme she chose, or
not watch any at all. There had not been an evening for the past
eleven years when the television had stayed off and there was silence
to hear the ticking of the clock and the central heating pipes.

‘It
is her only pleasure,’ she used to say, ‘She sees things she would
otherwise be quite unable to see, the television has given her a new
lease of life. You’re never too old to learn.’ But in truth her
mother had watched variety shows, Morecambe and Wise and the Black
and White Minstrels*, whereas she herself would have chosen
bbc
2* and something cultural or educational.

‘I
like a bit of singing and dancing, it cheers you up, Esme, it takes
you out of yourself. I like a bit of spectacular.’

But
tonight there might be a play or a film about Arabia or the
Archipelagoes, or a master class for cellists, tonight she would
please herself for the first time. Because it was two weeks now,
since her mother’s death, a decent interval.

here
was no one else on the beach so late in the afternoon.

It
was February. It was a cold evening. As far as she could see,the
beach and the sea and the sky were all grey, merging into one another
in the distance. On the day of her mother’s funeral it had been
blowing a gale, with sleet, she had looked round at all their
lifeless, pinched faces under the black hats and thought, this is
right, this is fitting, that we should all of us seem bowed and old
and disconsolate. Her mother had a right to a proper grief, a proper
mourning.

She
had wanted to leave the beach and walk back, her hands were stiff
with cold inside the pockets of her navy-blue coat — navy, she
thought, was the correct first step away from black. She wanted to go
back and toast scones and eat them with too much butter, of which her
mother would have strongly disapproved.4
We
never
had it,
we

were never allowed to indulge ourselves in rich foods, and besides,
they’ve been discovering more about heart disease in relation to
butter, haven’t you read that in the newspapers, Esme? I’m surprised
you don’t pay attention to these things. I pay attention. I don’t
believe in butter at every meal — butter on this, butter with that.’

Every
morning her mother had read two newspapers from cover to cover — the
Daily Telegraph
*
and the
Daily Mirror
*,
and marked out with a green ball point pen news items in which she
thought that her daughter ought to take an interest. She said, ‘I
like to see both sides of every question.’ And so, whichever side her
daughter or some visitor took, on some issue of the day, she was
informed enough by both her newspapers to take the opposing view. An
argument, she had said, sharpened the mind.

‘I
do not intend to become a cabbage, Esme, just because I am forced to
be bedridden.’

She
had reached the breakwater. A few gulls circled, bleating, in the
gunmetal sky, and the waterline was strewn with fishheads, the flesh
all picked away. She thought, I am free, I may go on or go back, or
else stand here for an hour, I am mistress of myself. It was a long
time since she had been out for so long, she could not quite get used
to it, this absence of the need to look at her watch, to scurry home.
But after a while, because it was really very damp and there was so
little to see, she did turn, and then the thought of tomorrow, and
the outing she had promised herself to buy new clothes. It would take
some months for her mother’s will to be proven, the solicitor had
explained to her, things were generally delayed, but there was no
doubt that they would be settled to her advantage and really, Mrs
Fanshaw had been very careful, very prudent, and so she would not be
in want. Meanwhile, perhaps an advance for immediate expenses?
Perhaps a hundred pounds?

When
the will was read, her first reaction had been one of admiration, she
had said, The cunning old woman’ under her breath, and then put her
hand up to her mouth, afraid of being overheard. ‘The cunning old
woman.’ For Mildred Fanshaw had saved up £6,000, scattered about in
bank and savings accounts. Yet they had always apparently depended
upon Esme’s salary and the old age pension, they had had to be
careful, she said, about electricity and extra cream and joints of
beef. ‘Extravagance,’ Mrs Fanshaw said, ‘it is a cardinal sin. That
is where all other evils stem from, Esme. Extravagance. We should all
live within our means.’

And
now here was £6,000. For a moment or two it had gone to her head,
she had been quite giddy with plans, she would buy a car and learn to
drive, buy a washing machine and a television set, she would have a
holiday abroad and get properly fitting underwear and eat out in a
restaurant now and again, she would…

But
she was over fifty, she should be putting money on one side herself
now, saving for her own old age, and besides, even the idea of
spending made her feel guilty, as though her mother could hear, now,
what was going on inside her head, just as, in life, she had known
her thoughts from the expression on her face.

She
had reached the steps leading up from the beach. It was almost dark.

She
shivered, then, in a moment of fear and bewilderment at her new
freedom, for there was nothing she had to do, she could please
herself about everything, anything, and this she could not get used
to. Perhaps she ought not to stay here, perhaps she could try and
sell the house, which was really far too big for her, perhaps she
ought to get a job and a small flat in London. London was the city of
opportunity …

She
felt flushed and a little drunk then, she felt that all things were
possible, the future was in her power, and she wanted to shout and
sing and dance, standing alone in the February twilight, looking at
the deserted beach. All the houses along the seafront promenade had
blank, black windows, for this was a summer place, in February it was
only half alive.

She
said, ‘And that is what I have been. But I am fifty-one years old and
look at the chances before me.’

Far
out on the shingle bank the green warning light flashed on-on-off,
on-on-off. It had been flashing the night of her mother’s stroke, she
had gone to the window and watched it and felt comforted at three
a.m. in the aftermath of death. Now, the shock of that death came to
her again like a hand slapped across her face, she thought, my mother
is not here, my mother is in a box in the earth, and she began to
shiver violently, her mind crawling with images of corruption, she
started to walk very quickly along the promenade and up the hill
towards home.

When
she opened the front door she listened, and everything was quite
silent, quite still. There had always been the voice from upstairs,
‘Esme?’ and each time she had wanted to say, ‘Who else would it be?’
and bitten back the words, only said, ‘Hello, it’s me.’ Now, again,
she called, ‘It’s me. Hello,’ and her voice echoed softly up the dark
stair well, when she heard it, it was a shock, for what kind of woman
was it who talked to herself and was afraid of an empty house? What
kind of woman?

She
went quickly into the sitting-room and drew the curtains and then
poured herself a small glass of sherry, the kind her mother had
preferred. It was shock, of course, they had told her, all of them,
her brother-in-law and her Uncle Cecil and cousin George Golightly,
when they had come back for tea and ham sandwiches after the funeral.

‘You
will feel the real shock later. Shock is always delayed.’ Because she
had been so calm and self-possessed, she had made all the
arrangements so neatly, they were very surprised.

‘If
you ever feel the need of company, Esme — and you will — of course
you must come to us. Just a telephone call, that’s all we need, just
a little warning in advance. You are sure to feel strange.’

Strange.
Yes. She sat by the electric fire. Well, the truth was she had got
herself thoroughly chilled, walking on the beach like that, so late
in the afternoon. It had been her own fault.

After
a while, the silence of the house oppressed her, so that when she had
taken a second glass of sherry and made herself a poached egg on
toast, she turned on the television and watched a variety show,
because it was something cheerful, and she needed taking out of
herself. There would be time enough for the educational programmes
when she was used to this new life. But a thought went through her
head, backwards and forwards, backwards and forwards, it was as
though she were reading from a tape.

‘She
is upstairs. She is still in her room. If you go upstairs you will
see her. Your mother.’ The words danced across the television screen,
intermingling with the limbs of dancers, issuing like spume out of
the mouths of comedians and crooners, they took on the rhythm of the
drums and the double basses.

‘Upstairs.
In her room. Upstairs. In her room.

Your
mother. Your mother. Your mother.

Upstairs
…’

She
jabbed at the push button on top of the set and the pictures shrank
and died, there was silence, and then she heard her own heart beating
and the breath coming out of her in little gasps. She scolded herself
for being morbid, neurotic. Very well then, she said, go upstairs and
see for yourself.

Very
deliberately and calmly she went out of the room and climbed the
stairs, and went into her mother’s bedroom. The light from the street
lamp immediately outside the window shone a pale triangle of light
down onto the white runner on the dressing table, the white lining of
the curtains and the smooth white cover of the bed. Everything had
gone. Her mother might never have been here. Esme had been very
anxious not to hoard reminders and so, the very day after the
funeral, she had cleared out and packed up clothes, linen, medicine,
papers, spectacles, she had ruthlessly emptied the room of her
mother.

Now,
standing in the doorway, smelling lavender polish and dust, she felt
ashamed, as though she wanted to be rid of all memory, as though she
had wanted her mother to die. She said, but that is what I did want,
to be rid of the person who bound me to her for fifty years. She
spoke aloud into the bedroom, T wanted you dead.’ She felt her hands
trembling and held them tightly together, she thought, I am a wicked
woman. But the sherry she had drunk began to have some effect now,
her heart was beating more quietly, and she was able to walk out into
the room and draw the curtains, even though it was now unnecessary to
scold herself for being so hysterical.

In
the living room, she sat beside the fire reading a historical
biography until eleven o’clock — when her mother was alive she had
always been in bed by ten — and the fears had quite left her, she
felt entirely calm. She thought, it is only natural, you have had a
shock, you are bound to be affected. That night she slept extremely
well.

When
she answered the front doorbell at eleven fifteen the following
morning and found Mr Amos Curry, hat in hand, upon the step,
inquiring about a room, she remembered a remark her Uncle Cecil had
made to her on the day of the funeral. ‘You will surely not want to
be here all on your own, Esme, in this great house. You should take a
lodger.’

Mr
Amos Curry rubbed his left eyebrow with a nervous finger, a gesture
of his because he was habitually shy. ‘A room to let,’ he said, and
she noticed that he wore gold cuff links and very well-polished
shoes. ‘I understand from the agency … a room to let with
breakfast.’

‘I
know nothing of any agency. I think you have the wrong address.’

He
took out a small loose-leaf notebook. ‘Number 23, Park Close.’

‘Oh
no, I’m so sorry, we are . ..’ she corrected herself, ‘I am
twenty-three Park
Walk.’

A
flush of embarrassment began to seep up over his face and neck like
an ink stain, he loosened his collar a little until she felt quite
sorry for him, quite upset.

‘An
easy mistake, a perfectly understandable mistake. Mr
… Please
do not feel at all
…’ ..
Curry. Amos Curry.’ .. embarrassed.’

‘I
am looking for a quiet room with breakfast. It seemed so hopeful.
Park Close. Such a comfortable address.’

She
thought, he is a very clean man, very neat and spruce, he has
a gold incisor tooth and he wears gloves. Her mother had always
approved of men who wore gloves. ‘So few do, nowadays. Gloves and
hats. It is easy to pick out a gentleman.’

Mr
Curry also wore a hat.

‘I
do apologize, Madam, I feel so

I would not have troubled …’

‘No

no, please . ..’

‘I
must look for Park Close, Number 23.’

‘It
is just around the bend, to the left, a few hundred yards. A very
secluded road.’

‘Like
this. This road is secluded. I thought as I approached this house,
how suitable, I should … I feel one can tell, a house has a certain
… But I am so sorry.’

He
settled his hat upon his neat grey hair, and then raised it again
politely, turning away.

She
took in a quick breath. She said, ‘What exactly … that is to say,
if you are looking for a room with breakfast, I wonder if

I…’

Mr
Amos Curry turned back.

He
held a small pickled onion delicately on the end of his fork. ‘There
is,’ he said, ‘the question of my equipment.’

Esme
Fanshaw heard his voice as though it issued from the wireless — there
was a distortion about it, a curious echo. She shook her head. He is
not real, she thought … But he was here, Mr Amos Curry, in a
navy-blue pin stripe suit and with a small neat darn just below his
shirt collar. He was sitting at her kitchen table — for she had
hesitated to ask him into the dining room, which in any case was
rarely used, the kitchen had seemed a proper compromise. He was here.
She had made a pot of coffee, and then, after an hour, a cold snack
of beef and pickles, bread and butter, her hands were a little moist
with
excitement. She thought again how rash she had been, she said, he is
a total stranger, someone from the street, a casual caller, I know
nothing at all about him. But she recognized the voice of her mother,
then, and rebelled against it. Besides, it was not true, for Mr Curry
had told her a great deal. She thought, this is how life should be, I
should be daring. I should allow myself to be constantly surprised.
Each day I should be ready for some new encounter. That is how to
stay young. She was most anxious to stay young.

In
his youth, Mr Curry had been abroad a great deal, had lived, he said,
in Ceylon, Singapore and India. ‘I always keep an open mind, Miss
Fanshaw, I believe in the principle of tolerance, live and let live.
Nation shall speak peace unto nation.’

‘Oh,
I do agree.’

‘I
have seen the world and its ways. I have no prejudices. The customs
of others may be quite different from our own but human beings are
human beings the world over. We learn from one another every day. By
keeping an open mind, Miss Fanshaw.’

‘Oh
yes.’

‘You
have travelled?’

‘I
— I have visited Europe. Not too far afield, I’m afraid.’

‘I
have journeyed on foot through most of the European countries, I have
earned my passage at all times.’

She
did not like to ask how, but she was impressed, having only been
abroad once herself, to France.

Mr
Curry had been an orphan, he said, life for him had begun in a
children’s home. ‘But it was a more than adequate start, Miss
Fanshaw, we were all happy together. I do not think memory deceives
me. We were one big family. Never let it be said that the Society»‘
did not do its best by me. I see how lucky I am. Well, you have only
to look about you, Miss Fanshaw — how many people do you see from
broken families, unhappy
homes? I know nothing of that: I count myself fortunate. I like to
think I have made the best of my circumstances.’

His
education, he said, had been rather elementary, he had a good brain
which had never been taxed to the full.

‘Untapped
resources,’ he said, pointing to his forehead.

They
talked so easily, she thought she had never found conversation
flowing along with any other stranger, any other man. Mr Curry had
exactly the right amount of formal politeness, mixed with informal
ease, and she decided that he was destined to live here, he had style
and he seemed so much at home.

He
had an ordinary face, for which she was grateful, but there was
something slightly unreal about it, as though she were seeing it on a
cinema screen. All the same, it was very easy to picture him sitting
in this kitchen, eating breakfast, before putting on his hat, which
had a small feather in the band, each morning and going off to work.

‘I
do have some rather bulky equipment.’

‘What
exactly

‘I
have two jobs, Miss Fanshaw, two strings to my bow, as it were. That
surprises you? But I have always been anxious to fill up every hour
of the day, I have boundless energy.’

She
noticed that he had some tufts of pepper coloured hair sprouting from
his ears and nostrils and wondered if, when he visited the barber for
a haircut, he also had these trimmed. She knew nothing about the
habits of men.

‘Of
course, it is to some extent seasonal work.’

‘Seasonal?’

‘Yes.
For those odd wet and windy days which always come upon us at the
English seaside, and of course during the winter, I travel in
cleaning utensils.’He looked around him quickly, as though to see
where she kept her polish and dusters and brooms, to make note of any
requirements.

‘Perhaps
you would require some extra storage space? Other than the room
itself.’

Mr
Curry got up from the table and began to clear away dishes, she
watched him in astonishment. The man on the doorstep with a note of
the wrong address had become the luncheon visitor, the friend who
helped with the washing up.

‘There
is quite a large loft.’

‘Inaccessible.’

‘Oh.’

‘And
I do have to be a little careful. No strain on the back. Not that I
am a sick man, Miss Fanshaw, I hasten to reassure you, you will not
have an invalid on your hands. Oh no. I am extremely healthy for my
age. It is because I lead such an active life.’

She
thought of him, knocking upon all the doors, walking back down so
many front paths. Though this was not what he did in the summer.

‘Sound
in wind and limb, as you might say.’

She
thought of racehorses, and tried to decide whether he had ever been
married. She said, ‘Or else, perhaps, the large cupboard under the
stairs, where the gas meter …’

‘Perfect.’

He
poured just the right amount of washing up liquid into the bowl; his
sleeves were already unbuttoned and rolled up to the elbows, his
jacket hung on the hook behind the back door. She saw the hairs lying
like thatch on his sinewy arms, and a dozen questions sprang up into
her mind, then, for although he seemed to have told her a great deal
about himself, there were many gaps.He had visited the town
previously, he told her, in the course of his work, and fell for it.
‘I never forgot it, Miss Fanshaw. I should be very happy here, I told
myself. It is my kind of place. Do you see?’

‘And
so you came back.’

‘Certainly.
I know when I am meant to do something. I never ignore that feeling.
I was intended to return here.’

‘It
is rather a small town.’

‘But
select.’

‘I
was only wondering — we do have a very short season, really only July
and August …’

‘Yes?’

‘Perhaps
it would not be suitable for your — er — summer work?’

‘Oh,
I think it would, Miss Fanshaw, I think so, I size these things up
rather carefully, you know, rather carefully.’

She
did not question him further, only said, ‘Well, it is winter now.’

‘Indeed.
I shall, to coin a phrase, be plying my other trade. In a town like
this, full of ladies such as yourself, in nice houses with
comfortable circumstances, the possibilities are endless, endless.’

‘For
— er — cleaning materials?’

‘Quite
so.’

‘I
do see that.’

‘Now
you take a pride, don’t you? Anyone can see that for himself.’

He
waved a hand around the small kitchen, scattering little drops of
foamy water, and she saw the room through his eyes, the clean
windows, the shining taps, the immaculate sinks. Yes, she took a
pride, that was true. Her mother had insisted upon it. Now, she heard
herself saying, ‘My mother died only a fortnight ago,’ forgetting
that she had told him already and the shock of the fact overcame her
again, she could not believe in the empty room, which she was
planning to give to Mr Curry, and her eyes filled up with tears of
guilt. And what would her mother have said about a strange man
washing up in their kitchen, about this new, daring friendship.

‘You
should have consulted me, Esme, you take far too much on trust. You
never think. You should have consulted me.’

Two
days after her mother’s funeral, Mrs Bickerdike, from The Lilacs, had
met her in the pharmacy, and mentioned, in lowered voice, that she
‘did work for the bereaved’, which, Esme gathered, meant that she
conducted seances. She implied that contact might be established with
the deceased Mrs Fanshaw. Esme had been shocked, most of all by the
thought of that contact, and a continuing relationship with her
mother, though she had only said that she believed in letting the
dead have their rest. ‘I think, if you will forgive me, and with
respect, that we are not meant to inquire about them, or to follow
them on.’

Now,
she heard her mother talking about Mr Curry. ‘You should always take
particular notice of the eyes, Esme, never trust anyone with eyes set
too closely together.’

She
tried to see his eyes, but he was turned sideways to her.

‘Or
else too widely apart. That indicates idleness.’

She
was ashamed of what she had just said about her mother’s recent
death, for she did not at all wish to embarrass him, or to appear
hysterical. Mr Curry had finished washing up and was resting his
reddened wet hands upon the rim of the sink. When he spoke, his voice
was a little changed and rather solemn. ‘I do not believe in shutting
away the dead, Miss Fanshaw, I believe in the sacredness of memory. I
am only glad that you feel able to talk to me about the good lady.’

She
felt suddenly glad to have him here in the kitchen, for his presence
took the edge off the emptiness and silence which lately had seemed
to fill up every corner of the house.

She
said, ‘It was not always easy . . . My mother was a very …
forthright woman.’

‘Say
no more. I understand only too well. The older generation believed in
speaking their minds.’

She
thought, he is obviously a very sensitive man, he can read between
the lines: and she wanted to laugh with relief, for there was no need
to go into details about how dominating her mother had been and how
taxing were the last years of her illness — he knew, he understood.

Mr
Curry dried his hands, smoothing the towel down one finger at a time,
as though he were drawing on gloves. He rolled down his shirt-sleeves
and fastened them and put on his jacket. His movements were neat and
deliberate. He coughed. ‘Regarding the room — there is just the
question of payment, Miss Fanshaw, I believe in having these matters
out at once. There is nothing to be embarrassed about in speaking of
money, I hope you agree.’

‘Oh
no, certainly, I . . .’

‘Shall
we say four pounds a week?’

Her
head swam. She had no idea at all how much a lodger should pay, how
much his breakfasts would cost, and she was anxious to be both
business-like and fair. Well, he had suggested what seemed to him a
most suitable sum, he was more experienced in these matters than
herself.

‘For
the time being I am staying at a commercial guest house in Cedars
Road. I have only linoleum covering the floor of my room, there is
nothing cooked at breakfast. I am not accustomed to luxury, Miss
Fanshaw, you will understand that from what I have told you of my
life, but I think I am entitled to comfort at the end of the working
day.’

‘Oh,
you will be more than comfortable here, I shall see to that, I shall
do my very best. I feel …’

‘Yes?’

She
was suddenly nervous of how she appeared in his eyes.

‘I
do feel that the mistake you made in the address was somehow …’

‘Fortuitous.’

‘Yes,
oh yes.’

Mr
Curry gave a little bow.

‘When
would you wish to move in, Mr Curry? There are one or two things …’

‘Tomorrow
evening, say?’

‘Tomorrow
is Friday.’

‘Perhaps
that is inconvenient.’

‘No
. .. no

certainly … our week could begin on a Friday, as it were.’

‘I
shall greatly look forward to having you as a landlady, Miss
Fanshaw.’

Landlady.
She wanted to say, ‘I hope I shall be a friend, Mr Curry,’ but it
sounded presumptuous.

When
he had gone she made herself a pot of tea, and sat quietly at the
kitchen table, a little dazed. She thought, this is a new phase of my
life. But she was still a little alarmed. She had acted out of
character and against what she would normally have called her better
judgement. Her mother would have warned her against inviting
strangers into the house, just as, when she was a child, she had
warned her about speaking to them in the street. ‘You can never be
sure, Esme, there are some very peculiar people about.’ For she was a
great reader of the crime reports in her newspapers, and of books
about famous trials. The life of Doctor Crippen* had particularly
impressed her.

Esme
shook her head. Now, all the plans she had made for selling the house
and moving to London and going abroad were necessarily curtailed, and
for the moment she felt depressed, as though the old life were going
to continue, and she wondered, too, what neighbours and friends might
say, and whether anyone had seen Mr Curry standing on her doorstep,
paper in hand, whether, when he went from house to house selling
cleaning utensils, they would recognize him as Miss Fanshaw’s lodger
and disapprove. There was no doubt that her mother would have
disapproved, and not only because he was a ‘stranger off the
streets’.

‘He
is a salesman, Esme, a doorstep pedlar, and you do not know
what his employment in the summer months may turn out to be.’

‘He
has impeccable manners, mother, quite old-fashioned ones, and a most
genteel way of speaking.’ She remembered the gloves and the raised
hat, the little bow, and also the way he had quietly and confidently
done the washing up, as though he were already living here.

‘How
do you know where things will lead, Esme?’

‘I
am prepared to take a risk. I have taken too few risks in my life so
far.’

She
saw her mother purse her lips and fold her hands together, refusing
to argue further, only certain that she was in the right. Well, it
was her own life now, and she was mistress of it, she would follow
her instincts for once. And she went and got a sheet of paper, on
which to write a list of things that were needed to make her mother’s
old bedroom quite comfortable for him. After that, she would buy
cereal and bacon and kidneys for the week’s breakfasts.

She
was surprised at how little time it took for her to grow quite
accustomed to having Mr Curry in the house. It helped, of course,
that he was a man of very regular habits and neat, too, when she had
first gone into his room to clean it, she could have believed that no
one was using it at all. The bed was neatly made, clothes hung out of
sight in drawers — he had locked the wardrobe, she discovered, and
taken away the key. Only two pairs of shoes side by side, below the
washbasin, and a shaving brush and razor on the shelf above it, gave
the lodger away.

Mr
Curry got up promptly at eight — she heard his alarm clock and then
the pips of the radio news. At eight twenty he came down to the
kitchen for his breakfast, smelling of shaving soap and shoe polish.
Always, he said, ‘Ah, good morning, Miss Fanshaw, good morning to
you,’ and then commented briefly upon the weather. It was ‘a bit
nippy’ or ‘a touch of sunshine, I see’ or ‘bleak’. He ate a cooked
breakfast, followed by toast and two cups of strong tea.

Esme
took a pride in her breakfasts, in the neat way she laid the table
and the freshness of the cloth, she warmed his plate under the grill
and waited until the last minute before doing the toast so that it
should still be crisp and hot. She thought, it is a very bad thing
for a woman such as myself to live alone and become entirely selfish.
I am the sort of person who needs to give service.

At
ten minutes to nine, Mr Curry got his suitcase from the downstairs
cupboard, wished her good morning again, and left the house. After
that she was free for the rest of the day, to live as she had always
lived, or else to make changes — though much of her time was taken
with cleaning the house and especially Mr Curry’s room, and shopping
for something unusual for Mr Curry’s breakfasts.

She
had hoped to enrol for lampshade-making classes at the evening
institute but it was too late for that year, they had told her she
must apply again after the summer, so she borrowed a book upon the
subject from the public library and bought frames and card and
fringing, and taught herself. She went to one or two bring-and-buy
sales and planned to hold a coffee morning and do a little voluntary
work for old people. Her life was full. She enjoyed having Mr Curry
in the house. Easter came, and she began to wonder when he would
change to his summer work, and what that work might be. He never
spoke of it.

To
begin with he had come in between five thirty and six every evening,
and gone straight to his room. Sometimes he went out again for an
hour, she presumed to buy a meal somewhere and perhaps drink a glass
of beer, but more often he stayed in, and Esme did not see him again
until the following morning. Once or twice she heard music coming
from his room — presumably from the radio, and she thought how nice
it was to hear that the house was alive, a home for someone else.

One
Friday evening, Mr Curry came down into the kitchen to give her the
four pounds rent, just as she was serving up lamb casserole, and when
she invited him to stay and share it with her, he accepted so quickly
that she felt guilty, for perhaps, he went without an evening meal
altogether. She decided to offer him the use of the kitchen, when a
moment should arise which seemed suitable.

But
a moment did not arise. Instead, Mr Curry came down two or three
evenings a week and shared her meal, she got used to shopping for
two, and when he offered her an extra pound a week, she accepted, it
was so nice to have company, though she felt a little daring, a
little carefree. She heard her mother telling her that the meals cost
more than a pound a week. ‘Well, I do not mind, they give me
pleasure, it is worth it for that.’

One
evening, Mr Curry asked her if she were good at figures, and when she
told him that she had studied book-keeping, asked her help with the
accounts for the kitchen utensil customers. After that, two or three
times a month, she helped him regularly, they set up a temporary
office on the dining-room table, and she remembered how good she had
been at this kind of work, she began to feel useful, to enjoy
herself.

He
said, ‘Well, it will not be for much longer, Miss Fanshaw, the summer
is almost upon us, and in the summer, of course, I am self-employed.’

But
when she opened her mouth to question him more closely, he changed
the subject. Nor did she like to inquire whether the firm who
supplied him with the cleaning utensils to sell, objected to the
dearth of summer orders.

Mr
Curry was an avid reader, ‘in the winter’, he said, when he had the
time. He read not novels or biographies or war memoirs, but his
encyclopedia, of which he had a handsome set, bound in cream
mock-leather and paid for by monthly instalments. In the evenings, he
took to bringing a volume down to the sitting-room, at her
invitation, and keeping her company, she grew used to the sight of
him in the opposite armchair. From time to time he would read out to
her some curious or entertaining piece of information. His mind
soaked up everything, but particularly of a zoological, geographical
or anthropological nature, he said that he never forgot a fact, and
that you never knew when something might prove of use. And Esme
Fanshaw listened, her hands deftly fringing a lampshade — it was a
skill she had acquired easily — and continued her education.

‘One
is never too old to learn, Mr Curry.’

‘How
splendid that we are of like mind! How nice!’

She
thought, yes, it is nice, as she was washing up the dishes the next
morning, and she flushed a little with pleasure and a curious kind of
excitement. She wished that she had some woman friend whom she could
telephone and invite round for coffee, in order to say, ‘How nice it
is to have a man about the house, really, I had no idea what a
difference it could make.’ But she had no close friends, she and her
mother had always kept themselves to themselves. She would have said,
‘I feel younger, and it is all thanks to Mr Curry. I see now that I
was only half-alive.’

Then,
it was summer. Mr Curry was out until half past nine or ten o’clock
at night, the suitcase full of brooms and brushes and polish was put
away under the stairs and he had changed his clothing. He wore a
cream linen jacket and a straw hat with a black band, a rose or
carnation in his buttonhole. He looked very dapper, very smart, and
she had no idea at all what work he was doing. Each morning he left
the house carrying a black case, quite large and square. She thought,
I shall follow him. But she did not do so. Then, one evening in July,
she decided to explore, to discover what she could from other people
in the town, for someone must know Mr Curry, he was a distinctive
sight, now, in the fresh summer clothes. She had, at the back of her
mind, some idea that he might be a beach photographer.

She
herself put on a quite different outfit — a white pique dress she had
bought fifteen years ago, but which still not only fitted, but suited
her, and a straw boater, edged with ribbon, not unlike Mr Curry’s own
hat. When she went smartly down the front path, she hardly dared to
look about her, certain that she was observed and spoken about by the
neighbours. For it was well known now that Miss Fanshaw had a lodger.

She
almost never went on to the promenade in the summer. She had told Mr
Curry so. ‘I keep to the residential streets, to the shops near home,
I do so dislike the summer crowds.’ And besides, her mother had
impressed on her that the summer visitors were ‘quite common’. But
tonight walking along in the warm evening air, smelling the sea, she
felt ashamed of that opinion, she would not like anyone to think that
she had been brought up a snob — live and let live, as Mr Curry would
tell her. And the people sitting in the deckchairs and walking in
couples along the seafront looked perfectly nice, perfectly
respectable, there were a number of older women and families with
well-behaved children, this was a small, select resort, and
charabancs were discouraged.

But
Mr Curry was not to be seen. There were no beach photographers. She
walked quite slowly along the promenade, looking all about her. There
was a pool, in which children could sail boats, beside the War
Memorial, and a putting green alongside the gardens of the Raincliffe
Hotel. Really, she thought, I should come out more often, really it
is very pleasant here in the summer, I have been missing a good deal.

When
she reached the putting green she paused, not wanting to go back, for
her sitting-room was rather dark, and she had no real inclination to
make lampshades in the middle of July. She was going to sit down,
next to an elderly couple on one of the green benches, she was going
to enjoy the balm of the evening. Then, she heard music. After a
moment, she recognized it. The tune had come quite often through the
closed door of Mr Curry’s bedroom.

And
there, on a corner opposite the hotel, and the putting green, she saw
Mr Curry. The black case contained a portable gramophone, the
old-fashioned kind, with a horn, and this was set on the pavement.
Beside it was Mr Curry, straw hat tipped a little to one side, cane
beneath his arm, buttonhole in place. He was singing, in a tuneful,
but rather cracked voice, and doing an elaborate little tap dance on
the spot, his rather small feet moving swiftly and daintily in time
with the music.

Esme
Fanshaw put her hand to her face, feeling herself flush, and wishing
to conceal herself from him: she turned her head away and looked out
to sea, her ears full of the sentimental music. But Mr Curry was
paying attention only to the small crowd which had gathered about
him. One or two passers by, on the opposite side of the road, crossed
over to watch, as Mr Curry danced, a fixed smile on his elderly face.
At his feet was an upturned bowler hat, into which people dropped
coins, and when the record ended, he bent down, turned it over
neatly, and began to dance again. At the end of the second tune, he
packed the gramophone up and moved on, farther down the promenade, to
begin his performance all over again.

She
sat on the green bench feeling a little faint and giddy, her heart
pounding. She thought of her mother, and what she would have said,
she thought of how foolish she had been made to look, for surely
someone knew, surely half the town had seen Mr Curry? The strains of
his music drifted up the promenade on the evening air. It was almost
dark now, the sea was creeping back up the shingle.

She
thought of going home, of turning the contents of Mr Curry’s room out
onto the pavement and locking the front door, she thought of calling
the police, or her Uncle Cecil, of going to a neighbour. She had been
humiliated, taken in, disgraced, and almost wept for the shame of it.

And
then, presently, she wondered what it was she had meant by ‘shame’.
Mr Curry was not dishonest. He had not told her what he did in the
summer months, he had not lied. Perhaps he had simply kept it from
her because she might disapprove. It was his own business. And
certainly there was no doubt at all that in the winter months he sold
cleaning utensils from door to door. He paid his rent. He was neat
and tidy and a pleasant companion. What was there to fear?

All
at once, then, she felt sorry for him, and at the same time, he
became a romantic figure in her eyes, for he had danced well and his
singing had not been without a certain style, perhaps he had a
fascinating past as a music hall performer, and who was she, Esme
Fanshaw, to despise him, what talent had she? Did she earn her living
by giving entertainment to others?

T
told you so, Esme. What did I tell you?’Told me what, mother? What is
it you have to say to me? Why do you not leave me alone?’

Her
mother was silent.

Quietly
then, she picked up her handbag and left the green bench and the
promenade and walked up through the dark residential streets, past
the gardens sweet with stocks and roses, past open windows, towards
Park Walk, and when she reached her own house, she put away the straw
hat, though she kept on the dress of white pique, because it was such
a warm night. She went down into the kitchen and made coffee and set
it, with a plate of sandwiches and a plate of biscuits, on a tray,
and presently Mr Curry came in, and she called out to him, she said,
‘Do come and have a little snack with me, I am quite sure you can do
with it, I’m quite sure you are tired.’

And
she saw from his face that he knew that she knew.

But
nothing was said that evening, or until some weeks later, when Mr
Curry was sitting opposite her, on a cold, windy August night,
reading from the volume cow to
din.
Esme Fanshaw said, looking at him, ‘My mother used to say, Mr Curry,
«I always like a bit of singing and dancing, some variety. It
takes you out of yourself, singing and dancing.» ‘

Mr
Curry gave a little bow.Notes

Morecambe
and Wise, the Black and White Minstrels (pi 19)

former
variety shows (light entertainment) on television BBC2 (pi 19)

the
television channel with more cultural or ‘serious’ programmes the
Daily Telegraph (pi20)

a
‘quality’ newspaper which supports right-wing (Conservative) politics
the Daily Mirror (pl20)

a
tabloid newspaper which supports left-wing (socialist) politics the
Society (pl27) a charity which provides institutional homes for
children whose parents are dead Doctor Crippen (pi33) a murderer
executed in London in 1910 for killing his wife

Discussion

  1. How
    does her mother’s death change Esme’s life?

  2. When
    Mr Curry moves in as Esme’s lodger, what advantages does the new
    arrangement have for him, and for Esme?

  3. By
    the end of the story, do you think that Esme has finally shaken off
    her mother’s domination for good, or will she still be fighting her
    in a private dialogue for the rest of her life? If she
    is

    now free, at what point in the story do you think the break comes,
    and what causes it? And is there a danger that Esme will eventually
    become like her mother?

Language
Focus

1
Mr Curry often speaks in cliches and uses well-known quotations. Find
the following in the text, and explain their meaning:

live
and let live
(pi27)

nation
shall speak peace unto nation
(pl27)

I
have earned my passage at all times
(pi27)

two
strings to my bow
(pl28)

sound
in wind and limb
(pi29)

plying
my other trade
(pi 30)
we
are of like mind
(pi37)

2
Look again at the passages where Esme is thinking about or having a
dialogue with her mother. Can you describe all the emotions and
states of mind Esme goes through (e.g. fear, guilt, shame, relief,
anxiety, defiance)?

Activities

    1. What
      do you think might happen after the end of the story? Write another
      paragraph to finish the story in, for example, a year’s time. Write
      it from Esme’s point of view, including her thoughts as well as any
      events. Does she marry Mr Curry? Does she become a partner in his
      song and dance act, or just continue to make lampshades and cook
      his breakfasts and dinners?

    2. Write
      Mr Curry’s diary for the day he arrives at Esme’s house. Describe
      Esme and the house in the way you think he would see them, and
      include his reasons for not telling her about his summer work. What
      do you think he deduces about Esme’s mother?

Ideas
for Comparison Activities

      1. In
        the stories
        Same Time, Same Place

        and
        A Bit of Singing and Dancing,
        what
        similarities or differences are there between Esme and Miss Tread
        well, and Mr Curry and Mr Thornhill?

Which of these two stories do you prefer, and why?

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«A bit of singing and dancing»

Baranova Ksenia, EG-17


The narration is headlined «A bit of singing and dancing» written by children’s writer and playwright Susan Hill. It was published in 1973 in the United Kingdom. The narration written with a touch of tragic.

The topic of the story is fathers and children, the inner freedom, the human relationships. The message of this work is every person dreams of their own freedom. But often, when he or she gets that freedom, he or she doesn’t know what to do with it.

The story under analysis present a woman (Esme Fanshow), who had been left alone after her mother died. The author describes the feelings, emotions and thoughts of the main character. She dreams of learning how to sew, move to London and travel a lot. But without any waiting, Esme rents a room in her house to a man. She was happy to live with him under one roof. After a while, she learned that a man is a street musician.

The plot unfolds around three main characters:

Esme is 50 years old, spent her whole life with her mother, she has no family or even friends. She dreams of a great life, but limits herself to what her mother would say.

Esme’s mother died two weeks ago. She always taught her daughter how to live. Did not take into account her opinions and desires.

Mr. Curry is the man who sells laundry detergent in winter and summer dances on the street for money. A clean and tidy gentleman. Grew up without parents in an orphanage. He was, in many countries, and he learned a lot. He has a nice look and manners.

The plot can be divided into three logical parts – a) the taste of freedom, b) acquaintance with the Mister, c) imprisonment again.

The whole story is presented in the form of a partly dialogue between mother and Esme, partly a monologue of the main character. Even after Esme’s mother death, her spiritual presence still lingered, haunting Esme’s conscious thoughts. We can see a mother’s voice appear in the story. With this author shows all the power of influence on Esme. «Her mother had always approved of men who wore gloves. ‘So few do, nowadays. Cloves and hats. It is easy to pick out a gentleman.’»

The main symbol of this story is music and songs. The story begins by mentioning that Missy Fanshow has always loved a little singing and dancing. Esme has always been annoyed by it. But when she found out about Mr. Kari’s work, she had accepted it and even got glad. In conclusion, we see how the main character who wanted freedom — gave it to the first man she met.

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‘A Bit of Singing and Dancing’ Susan Hill CBE (born 5 February 1942) is an English author of fiction and non-fiction works. Her novels include The Woman in Black, The Mist in the Mirror and I’m the King of the Castle for which she received the Somerset Maugham Award in 1971. She was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the 2012 Birthday Honours for services to literature. [1][2] A Bit of Singing and Dancing is a short story collection by British writer Susan Hill. It was published in 1973.

In the story under the title “A Bit of Singing and Dancing” Susan Hill tells us about a woman (Easme Fanshow), whose mother died and she stayed alone. The author narrates her feelings, behavior, plans, and lifestyle. First of all, Easme tried to feel freedom/ She had a lot of plans about different purchases, traveling and other expenses. The woman decided to let one of the rooms in her house. Easme knew nothing about this job and had no impudence to ask. But she became to be bored in the evening. Even after learning that he is dancing in the square for the money to keep him.

The story mainly focuses on the tyranny and freedom. The composition of the story is unusual for its location events. In the beginning, we see a woman, two weeks ago, her mother died. Gradually, the deepening, in the canvas the story, we see how the man was her mother, we see. The narrative is in the third person, including monologues daughter, mother. e her alive. Then again, death and life after her daughter. The action and plot of the story revolve around three main characters. The story is the theme of human relationships, the inner freedom of the person on the example of the life Easme.

Easme – woman 50 years old, spent her life with her mother, she does not have the family or even friends. She dreams of a great life but limits itself by the fact that he thought the mother would say to every action that was forbidden to her. But now she is free. It is true that this freedom is false and she gladly gives it to the first person who came to the house after the death of her mother. Mom Esmy died 2 weeks ago. All her life she had for her daughter everything. She taught her to live, eat properly, and choose the people. She’s a pretty bossy woman. In addition to his own life, and she lived the life of his daughter.

Mister, a person who sells detergent winter and summer dances on the boulevard for the money. Clean and neat gentleman, he likes to read the encyclopedia and it often said that you need to develop your horizons. He was, in many countries, and they learned a lot. It has a nice appearance and manners. The house Easme him well. Maybe because he was tired of a free life. Story structure has an open ending, the reader is the most complete history. By genre can be attributed to a realistic psychological history. The main symbol the product music. Music is in the title, the music sounds in the house Easme, the music lacks after my mother’s death.

Mum loved music and could not imagine my life without her. The music here as a symbol of captivity. You can test all you want, but would not hear the silence and not feel a void. Here, the author discusses the eternal problem of human freedom and human nature in general. The problem of upbringing and life. Many people desire for freedom just like Easme Fanshaw in this story. However, when people are bounded with tyranny for so many years, it’s a challenge for them to have a new life with freedom as they don’t get used to it. In other words, people can not get rid of their old life. [1] It has been described as “a vivid picture of the loneliness of old age” But Easme realized that it would be a useless extravagance and she had to save money for her old age. A neat and spruce gentleman (as she believed) became her longer. Mr. Curry was his name and he traveled in cleaning utensils in wintertime. Everything was all right, their life was rather successful. He worked and paid four pounds a week for his living and one pound for his food. She was cleaning the house and was shopping. In the evening they were reading and talking. But the summer came, and his second seasonable job began.

One day decided to go for a walk, although didn’t walk in summer earlier, because her mother wouldn’t approve it (Easme still was asking mother’s advice and thought what her mother said about this or that action). And during this walk, the woman saw Mr. Curry and understood what kind of job he had. She was angry because he was only singing and dancing on the street and got some money from this occupation. Easme had been humiliated and taken in as she considered, but after some meditations, she understood that she liked a bit of singing and dancing and Easme calmed down.

A Bit of Singing and Dancing is a short story collection by British writer Susan Hill. It was published in 1973 in the United Kingdom and reissued along with In the Springtime of the Year in the United States in 1984.

The stories mainly focus on tyranny and freedom.

Reception

A 1984 book review by Kirkus Reviews of two short story collections by Hill, concluded; «Like Hill’s other stories, these are tales of thwarted passions and odd couples—with the mixture of pathos and charm at its best in the title story.»[1] The book has been described as «a vivid picture of the loneliness of old age».[2]

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