Piano Story

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It’s a sad day because my piano for – I guess – about twenty years is about to be collected and driven up to Birmingham for our son. I bought it because I began (almost accidentally) trying to run a church music group where everyone else was a better musician than I was. I was a moderate but very rusty acoustic guitarist and a half reasonable singer but apart from guitar notation I couldn’t read music. My critics, and there were many of them, voted mostly with their feet when I tried to introduce new music to the church, but enough of them remained to fight a guerilla war with me and the musicians and ensure that there was a constant supply of scorn and hostility on offer. The only alternative was to get better at what we were doing and so initially I got some proper guitar lessons and when I was on top of that instrument I bought the piano and found a teacher.  Actually I had two teachers – the first, Bryn, was a lovely man who would reminisce about his days playing the piano at strip clubs and how his dad was a star at the local pub but only ever played on the black notes because he reckoned it was impossible to play a dud chord whatever notes you hit. Hmm ….

My second teacher, David, was a brilliant musician, composer and choir director who would rap my knuckles with a ruler when I made daft mistakes. I never became a real pianist but I learned to read enough music to resolve most of the disputes that arose in the band.  I took a couple of courses in music theory at the university too, and as the music group grew I taught myself to conduct and, ‘though I say it myself, we were pretty good for a bunch of amateurs and we had a lot of fun too.

Sad to say, since I retired and we moved here to Bath, I haven’t sung at all and the music has slipped away. Our flat is in a cast concrete box and so sound travels very easily. Piano practice is repetitive, noisy and downright antisocial so the lid has remained closed and the music is in my head. Bach has been a great consolation. Meanwhile my tiny study has become a pit and so after a clear out of books I knew I wasn’t going to read (I’ve more than replaced them with new books) the piano is the next thing to go and today when the removers leave I’m going to turn the desk around so I can look out of the window at last, and I’ll be able to get to the shelves that I’ve had to crawl under the desk to reach.

So a bittersweet moment to contemplate, but with months of incarceration to face, it makes sense. Yesterday we heard a commotion outside on the green, and about fifty gulls (lesser black backed) were circling around in a highly agitated state. Then we caught sight of a man down on the green who was flying a falcon – a Harris Hawk I’m pretty sure. The gulls surrounded it and harried it from a distance but the hawk was having none of it, nonchalantly perching in the trees for a breather and then setting off to menace them once more.  I guess this is a new council attempt to discourage these visitors who make the most tremendous racket during the breeding season, and tear open rubbish bags, spreading their maggotty contents across the streets. It was wonderful to watch the hawk working.

Outside the streets are uncannily quiet and the supermarkets are struggling to cope.  Our son’s partner was almost elbowed to the floor in Waitrose yesterday as the middle classes fought over the toilet paper.  Later she witnessed a fierce argument at the checkout when one customer was not allowed to buy two four roll packs  when the customer behind was allowed to buy sixteen in a pack.  This morning I got a rebuke from Facebook for posting a completely innocuous photo of a joker in a hazmat suit because it ‘breached their community standards’ – I’d copied it from an online newspaper so I guess they’re a little behind the curve in their attempts to stifle discussion. These are strange times – I hope we’ll be able to get up to the allotment later today, I’m going stir crazy already.