The central heating went off the other day. There is nothing particularly noteworthy or unusual about this - our central heating system fails with the regularity of England's football team - and the problem can normally be solved by moving the brick from the door of the outside boiler house, pressing a completely random combination of buttons and giving the high technology, digitally controlled equipment a quick kick (I suspect the same solution would improve the prospects of our national football team, but that is another blog-post). On this particular occasion I went outside to deliver the necessary kick and the Good Lady Wife insisted on accompanying me. She has got it into her head that, given my carbohydrate-rich diet and my generous waistline, I might not be long for this world and has suddenly taken an interest in understanding the basic mechanics of keeping the house operational in my unfortunate absence.
It was only as I opened the brick-propped door that I remembered my little arrangement with the postman to leave any books being delivered to our house in the boiler house. Such an arrangement had the advantage of him being able to deliver any little book-filled parcels even when I was out and the even more substantial advantage of keeping such purchases from the inquisitive eyes of my GLW who has placed a blanket ban on further acquisitions until I get rid of some of the existing stock.
Sitting on an old plastic box awaiting my attention was a pleasingly large parcel which turned out to contain a second-hand copy of an illustrated history of the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra entitled "The Original Liverpool Sound". My attempts to justify the purchase on the grounds of necessary genealogical research cut about as much ice as the failed central heating system, and I was given a final warning about future book purchases.
I wouldn't mind, but my sudden interest in the Liverpool Philharmonic was brought about by the history of the family of my GLW rather than my own. A story emerged recently about her grandfather - Charles Frederick Usher - having a "music room" in his house where he kept his cello as he was a member of the Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra. I found this story somewhat dubious - all the records I have ever seen suggest that Charles Frederick wove rope fenders for the Liverpool docks rather than sweet symphonies for the Liverpool gentry. A quick read of the rather enjoyable history book that emerged from my boiler house provided ample evidence of names such as Paganini, Charles Groves and Sir Malcolm Sargent - but nothing at all about any Ushers.
I always thought that the Usher lot had a slightly grandiose view of their place in the world and therefore suspected that, at best Charley Usher, might have played second fiddle in a Music Hall pit band, and in order to pursue this particular line of research I have just acquired a copy of R J Broadbent's "Annals of The Liverpool Stage". However, just in case the GLW is reading this and about to rush into the boiler house to intercept yet another delivery of "those old and mouldy books you are so fond of", let me assure her that it is a PDF copy that takes up the space of half a human hair on my computer hard drive (and if you believe that, you probably believe that Charley Usher was the chief cellist of the Liverpool Phil!).