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Tarnished by rain

Degawdawns are in the Music Room recording sound effects. Matt holds the mike, Eilir bangs out chords on the almost unusable piano, while Julie blows more or less in rhythm on a little posthorn. Ffion's tinklings on a recorder are more or less drowned. They are recording, it is clear, for a wild, dramatic scene.

After the music they have some lines to record. In one of their restrictions they were required to incorporate a rhyming couplet including the word "biro". It will be spoken by their narrator, a black-and-white minstrel toy among the extraordinary paraphenalia lying around the house. "We need a black man to do it." "We haven't got a black man." "Matthew'll do it best. Go on Matt." Eilir gives him the microphone. Somebody mentions Louis Armstrong.

"Tarnished by rain," whispers Matthew. "By biro, by flame." Julie directs him: "Again, only with more welly." "Now do it with a contrast between the three parts." He does it with greater and lesser amounts of welly. It sounds OK. It sounds like Matthew. It doesn't sound like Louis Armstrong. Julie takes the mike: "Shall we all have a go? TARNISHED BY RAIN!" Pause. "By biro. By FLAME!" A few more tries, and Ffion takes the mike and darts into the small space between the curtain and the window. Perhaps she likes the acoustic, perhaps the privacy, or perhaps the faint patter of raindrops. She says, quietly, "Tarnished by rain, by biro, by flame." She does it again, a fraction louder. "Have we got it?" someone asks. Eilir takes the microphone. "Let me have a go. Ba da ba da dibu dibo dum." He has a rich, deep Welsh voice but he rasps these syllables from somewhere deeper, resonant and unrecognisable. "Tarnished by rain, by biro, by flame." He is Louis Armstrong, singing the blues. Matthew is about to take the mike off him, but is brushed him away. "I'm still warming up. Bah, ba da bah, bah da badada badada badada bah. Tarnished bah, reeen! Bah bah-ro, bah, fleeem!" It sounds amazing. "Now I'll just do Louis vomiting. Bweuaargh." He makes a series of ever-more lifelike and revolting vomiting sounds. Julie has turned her face to the wall to stop her laughter putting him off. I hide behind a curtain, Matt behind a pillar. At length Eilir-Louis' emesis is over. "Right, let's go upstairs and get that other stuff we need."

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