Wednesday, 8 June 2016
Blog Tour - All Together Now by Gill Hornby
The Bridgeford Community Choir is in crisis. Numbers are down. The choir leader is in hospital. The tea urn is behaving in an ominous fashion. Something must be done.
New joiners Tracey Leckford and Bennett Parker might just be able to save the day. But Tracey is hiding a huge secret about her past. And Bennett - while equipped with a beautiful singing voice - is entirely baffled by the world and everything in it. Can they really fit in with dependable old regulars like Annie?
As the choir suffers through fights, feuds and the perils of the school fair, it becomes clear that their struggles are not just about music, but the future of their community. In order to save their singing group and their town, the Bridgeford Singers will have to find a way to work together - in harmony.
Today I am pleased to welcome Gill Hornby to my blog as part of her blog tour to celebrate the publication of her new novel, All Together Now. The publishers, Little Brown, have given me an extract to share you with my blog readers and my review will also be following soon. Enjoy ......
All Tracey had ever wanted, for her interminable teenage years, was to be Karen Carpenter: to sing to, to be heard by, to sway beneath the gaze of the whole world out there. In her more realistic moments she was prepared to settle for being a mere slice of Bananarama, such was the measure of her determination and – at times – desperation. But, no. Even her most humble aspirations were to be denied her. Fate, it turned out, had other plans. She waited, as she sang, for that familiar stab of grief, disappointment, humiliation; to be shocked once more by the way her story had ended; to be derailed by one of her interminable enquiries of ‘What if . . . ?’ But, much to her surprise, nothing happened. She was just having too good a time: lying on the sofa being Sheena Easton, making cheese on toast doing her best Bonnie Tyler. She was actually up, barefoot, on the dining table singing ‘Theme from Mahogany’ into yet another wine bottle – Do you know where you’re going to? – when the doorbell rang.
It had been many years since anyone had rung their doorbell, and it took Tracey a few moments to identify the sound. She heard it again. Her first response was to ignore it, until she realised that for once Billy was actually out. She climbed down from the table and tottered over to the cassette player. Supposing something had happened to him? She turned off the music and looked over the window sill. Was it a policeman down there, come to play out her very worst fears?
Tracey couldn’t even remember the last time she had used the front door. They had a mailbox fixed to the outside wall. She, Billy and Billy’s mates always came through the garage, and nobody else ever turned up, ever. As a consequence, the stairs down to it had become, over time, jam-packed with all the stuff they didn’t quite have room for and had never quite got round to chucking out. She stood at the top and peered down, over old bicycles, a rowing machine, a mini-fridge that didn’t smell too healthy, a guitar, a lava lamp, a rucksack, a lot of Warhammer, bin bags full of indeterminate cast-offs, a keyboard, a train set and finally, at the bottom, a pram. There was definitely a man down there, she could tell by the silhouette on the frosted glass. He rang again. Better get this over with. She picked her way through, like a warden in the Blitz. Eventually, she found and opened the door. It was him. The dad. Of that girl. The one in the wheelchair. Admittedly, she felt quite pissed now she was standing up and having to communicate with someone, but still, she was sure. It was him.
‘Evening. Sorry to bother you,’ he said, although he didn’t sound it. ‘Only I couldn’t help overhearing—’
‘Yes. Sorry’ – he put his hand to his chest – ‘I’m Lewis. We’re neighbours and—’
‘Hi. Tracey. You listen to us?’ She was starting to get, in Billy parlance, weirded out. This bloke was like one of those Stasi officers who spent their lives bugging East German homes. Tracey had never seen him before and suddenly there he was, twice in a night.
Was she under surveillance?
‘Well, no. Of course not. We don’t have a glass to the wall, or anything. We live across there,’ he jerked his thumb over his shoulder, ‘on the corner. We can’t help but hear your music and—’
‘All our music?’ Oops. She pressed her forehead to edge of the door. The Bloodshitters. He’d come to complain about The Bloodshitters . . .
‘No. Really.’ He held out his hand. ‘You don’t understand. This isn’t a complaint. I’m just here because, well, you were playing different songs tonight. And you were singing. I’ve never heard you sing before.’
OK. This was quite weird . . .
‘And you sounded brilliant.’
. . . but, you know, not that weird.
‘Thanks.’ They stood there looking at one another. Tracey felt rather at sea. She had never knowingly met a neighbour before and certainly never gone in for any of that neighbourly chit-chat stuff. ‘Very kind.’ But, much to her own surprise, she found that she did want to be friendly, just this once. After all, she’d watched this one with his daughter; she’d witnessed how much he cared; she’d seen him make a total arse of himself dad-dancing outside Budgens. Even Tracey Leckford couldn’t shut a door in a face after all that. She smiled, while racking her brains for something to say. ‘Anyway.’ What was it people talked about? Compost bins . . . Rubbish collection . . . Gutter-clearing . . . Surely this was a bloke who could bang on for hours about gutter-clearing . . . As it turned out, he was a bloke with his own agenda.
‘Actually, I have come to ask you a favour.’
‘Um. Yeah. Of course.’ Neighbours? Favours? Now she was seriously out of her depth.
‘We would like you,’ he pressed a leaflet at her, ‘to join our choir.’
She looked down at the leaflet, made a snorty noise, looked back up at his face, all ready for a good old laugh . . . and was struck, instantly, by the absence of a sense of joke where really, under normal circumstances, she would expect some sense of joke to be.
‘We have a competition to win.’
She straightened her face. ‘Yes,’ she said through a cough. ‘I heard it on the local news.’ Amazingly, for once she actually had.
Lewis was not as amazed as he should have been. ‘Yup.’ He thrust his hands into his trouser pockets, rocked on his heels, paused for a bit of teeth-sucking. ‘It is a pre-tty big deal.’
Tracey couldn’t reply to that; if she did, she would only get the giggles.
‘And you are exactly what Bridgeford needs.’
‘Yes . . . but . . . you see . . . ’
He pulled back his shoulders, raised his voice a bit. ‘Can all the voices of this town at last unite?’
‘Um . . . well . . . haven’t got a clue . . . I doubt it . . . Christ . . . sound bloody awful . . . but I’m afraid . . . ’
‘Are we better together or are we better apart?’
Apart, on the whole, obviously, thought Tracey – though she could see it wasn’t the moment to bring it up. Instead, she kept quiet and watched the spectacle unfold on her own doorstep. He was well away now, this Lewis – rather fancied himself as quite the inspirational public speaker, if she was not mistaken.
‘Can we go to the County Championships and bring back our pride?’
Tracey studied him as he blathered on with his fists clenched and his eyes shining. A funny thing, the power of the human voice, she thought: not just for the effect it had on others, but for the effect it could have on ourselves. Tracey was entirely unmoved by Lewis’ rhetoric, but clearly he was under the impression he was transformed.
‘Can we win the County Championships?’
She was looking at a shortish, fattish white bloke in supermarket jeans, but somewhere inside that shortish, fattish white exterior was a self-image of someone else entirely.
‘Yes we can!’
She cringed and let slip an involuntary moan of pain, but Lewis didn’t notice.
‘And we need you, Tracey. We really need you.’
‘Oh . . . um . . . Lewis . . . I would love to help, obviously, but . . . but . . . ’
‘We are your local singers . . . ’
‘Oh . . . OK . . . I did get that bit . . . but . . . ’
‘ . . . and we need YOU.’
‘Oh what, Tracey?’ He was getting rather demanding now. ‘Oh what exactly?’