My father taught himself to play the piano as his mother could not afford lessons and so Dad began to play as a teenager and did not stop literally until the day he died.
Mum was a great singer, in fact before they got together, Dad took a bus ride one day to hear her sing in some performance and at the end, mentioned that he just “happened to be passing”. In any event, Mum was allowed to have records and these were of the musicals.
This meant that all through my childhood, I was surrounded by music. Dad would play the piano for at least a couple of hours in the evening after work and longer at weekends and I would sit nearby, watching his feet press the pedals until I couldn’t help myself any longer and leap up to fling myself around the lounge furniture. If that didn’t allow for enough freedom of expression, I would rush out into the garden where the notes of the piano would drift through the evening air as I leapt around the rose bushes.
When the piano had fallen silent for the day, Mum would then put on one of her records and my brother and I would roar the lyrics to “Camelot”, along with Richard Burton, trill out “The Sound of Music” with Julie Andrews or attempt a cockney accent with Dick van Dyke.
I’m not sure how old I was when I had my first Ballet lesson but I would have been younger than seven, wore my best party dress and for some reason, ended up dancing the polka with my teacher. I can still remember the sheer thrill of us spinning round the room, galloping along together.
From then on, I was a dedicated dancer. Lessons every week and catching the train with my parents to the big city to do my exams. After we moved to a much hotter climate, I continued with Ballet, struggling into my leotard and tights to heave and sweat my way around a stifling studio.
For a short time, we initially lived in a hotel, whilst Dad found a house for us all and so he and I could often be found in the residents’ lounge, him on the piano tearing his way through a complicated piece and me regaling the rather bemused residents with leaps and bounds around the potted ferns.
I had also been playing the piano now as well and the new house rocked as two conflicting pianos crashed away. I was relegated to the old upright at one end of the house and Dad had the grand in the lounge. Whenever he went out, I would sneak in, lift the lid and give a virtuoso performance to myself but if anyone else ever came in, I would stop.
As with all things, I found the exams for both Ballet and Piano just a bit much. Practising before school, having to play for assembly, my shaking hands fumbling their way around “All Things Bright and Beautiful”. Th hours spent working on my turnouts and pas de chas’s in the garden, knowing that I was simply just not good enough.
So I gave up the lessons and exams and played purely for me. I have recently attempted the piano again, whilst in lockdown and will perservere but it’s hard when you can’t play how you used to.
I still dance, my feet still tap. I still kick my heels up and I find that all kinds of music does still speak to me in a very deep way. I certainly hope that when I am gone, the daisies will nod in time in my grass blanket, the bees will hum in harmony and the butterflies will dance and leap above my face.