Sunday 8 September 2019

Sounds Unlikely

by John Nicholson


breakfast tea

The daughters of my best friends do not normally come to mind. Especially when I am washing up. Ruth is an exception.

It was the frog.

Sitting somewhere in the everglades of my kitchen sink was a frog that croaked. I swear. But all went silent. It must have seen me. 

Intrepid as ever I felt around in the water among the things I had put in it. A cereal bowl, a mug, a few bits of cutlery, a teapot lid, nothing else. I took out the little red lid and put it in the water I use to rinse things.

The frog croaked again.

Was it inside the lid? I picked the it out of the water, confirmed the frog was invisible, and put the lid back. It croaked at me again.

A stream of little bubbles had come up through the hole in the teapot lid to blow a froggy raspberry at me. 

That’s when I thought of Ruth. She would love it. A sound for one of her films. Croaking on demand, no recordings, electronic gubbins or a house-trained frog, just a teapot lid and a bowl of water. 

Perhaps I should write to Ruth, my Foley artist friend, and tell her, she who has trodden the TV tread of Inspector Morse  for her microphones, and danced the footsteps of Mama Mia, blending sonic scenarios with image and action. No I mustn’t. Give her a break. Mama mia, she would know I was losing it.

The trouble is I wash the lid every day. And when I do, Ruth and Foley come to mind. I play with it. I explore its resonance, its reverberations in different circumstances. In deep water it farts, a quick burst of bubbles. Immersed in shallow water it burbles like a baby. Would it be different in cold water? The lid is more than a plaything now. It is a research project in acoustics.

But last week, as I removed the last fork from the rinsing water, the draining board exploded. Plates slipped, pans clattered, and the teapot lid leapt to oblivion. It shattered into dozens of pieces on my tiled kitchen floor in an intense and splintering crash.

I blame Elizabeth David. Her classic recipe book had leapt from her companions on the shelf above the sink, my teapot lid collateral damage in her attempted suicide. Madhur Jaffrey, up there flat on her face, was next in line. Mmmm. Had Elizabeth been pushed? She might not have been easy company. Or is Delia doomed? Is there a serial killer up there on the shelf?

Now I have a whodunnit. I imagine culinary crime scenes and motives as I wash, rinse and drain. I dream up titles: Cereal Killer. A Menu of Motives. Raven’s Revenge. Slater on the Slab.

Science has given way to art, phonics to fiction. Kitchen sink drama trumps kitchen sink science.

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