Sunday, March 4, 2007

The Curious Incident of the Gregorian Monks in the Night*

About a year ago (give or take a few months), I blogged about a singularly curious incident that befell me in the dead of the night; namely an otherworldly voice that eerily whispered "kerchief" over and over from outside my bedroom window. I am sad to say that the mystery was never solved.

I am even sadder to say that another singularly curious incident occurred last night, or more precisely, in the early hours of the morning: I was woken by a male choir intoning Gregorian chants from, once again, outside my bedroom window.

The more skeptical of you may not believe me. Why should I lie? For the record, I was not intoxicated nor was I tripping out. I was also most definitely awake. And for the record, I do know a Gregorian chant when I hear one. In his younger days, my father used to plainchant with the best of them and, although his attempts to initiate me into the mysteries of its eight modes and square notation can best be compared to casting (square) pearls before swine, his weighty red songbook remains one of my most treasured possessions which I open up on occasion to rub the onion skin paper between my fingers and to breathe in my father's presence (even if my attempts to "hum a few bars" invariably ends up sounding like "Row, row row your boat").

I might add that, in conjunction with my father's influence, a rather famous Gregorian chant inspired me to open a Latin grammar book with purpose; namely the flagellating monks of Monty Python and the Holy Grail. I was hellbent to find out what "pie Jesu Domine, dona eis requiem (thud!) meant. That doesn't in any way explain what the hell a group of wandering choristers were doing at 5:08 outside my apartment building. Besides singing. (I don't know if they were smacking their heads with their songbooks as they boogied down the street).

Now I confess that I have had a little trouble sleeping over the past 18 months. Between howling dogs, rutting cats, screeching cars, honking cars, careening cars, amorous neighbours, tinny muezzins, the Ramadan Pre-Dawn Marching Band, and kerchief-whispering ghouls, my sleep pattern can best be described as fucked erratic. Not only does this latest addition do nothing to reduce my nocturnal burdens but it has taxed my already weakened powers of deduction and reason. Why were they there? To celebrate the birth of the Princess Khadija? Did it have something to do with the green laser light beam that dissected the night sky last evening? (Don't know what that was about either but I definitely didn't hear any chanting or Pink Floyd for that matter). Perhaps these itinerant chanters were also learned skywatchers and were inspired to sing praise to the glowing mulberry orb created by yesterday's eclipse of the moon. All I know is that these sleep-depriving monks woke me up around 5:00 and continued until they were challenged by the warbling invocations of the 5:28 Call to Prayer (or maybe it was the 6:46 Call to Prayer; by then I had lost all sense of time). Not to be outdone by the vocal gymnastics of Agdal's muezzin (think The Crash Test Dummies vs. Mariah Carey), the monks bravely entered the fray, fought gallantly but eventually ceded victory, disappearing into the night, their faces hidden deep within their cowls. At least I think their faces were hidden deep within their cowls. They must have been.

Perhaps my story would have more credence if I had actually looked out of the window. But why are my eyes any more trustworthy than my ears? Did I not mention the fact that I know a Gregorian chant when I hear it? And why did no one hear them except me? In a rare display of uxorious affection, I stupidly refrained from waking Mr. CinR (an individual who will undoubtedly sleep through the Second Coming of Christ), but guess what? - I don't think he believes me. Imagine! Why should I make something like this up? Why? Why? I fear that doubt has crept into our marriage. Mr. Cat Doubting Thomas in Rabat.

This week I'm definitely going to buy a camera phone.

*Sigh*. On a totally unrelated topic, two weeks from today, I'll be on vacation. Not that I need a vacation because I'm a-okay. Right as rain. My mind is as sharp as a tack. Just a little vacation. A vacation in a land bereft of howling dogs, rutting cats, screeching cars, honking cars, careening cars, amorous neighbours, tinny muezzins, the Ramadan Pre-Dawn Marching Band, "kerchief"-whispering ghouls and Gregorian-chanting monks - or if not bereft, then rendered inaudible by our hotel's thick double-glazed windows (and a bottle of rioja Gran Reserva).

I have nothing more to say.

Ite, missa est.

*With apologies to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle but not to Mark Haddon.

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