Aren't old photographs fascinating? This is my Mom and Dad's wedding picture. Dad was the eldest of six, the last was yet to be born. Look at the outfits worn by granddad and grandma on the left. And don't they look happy? Only the best man had a smile on his face ... perhaps he knew something they didn't. Here's a more modern one, taken when I was a child. The rest of the grandchildren came later.
My family on my Dad’s side was both musical and artistic. Sad to say I know very little about Mom's family.
Starting with my grandfather who ‘played piano by ear’ the family members developed their own form of music, playing the piano, dancing or singing. Most were artistic … woodwork, art, craftwork or dramatics. Only now, as I look back, do I recognise the surfeit of talent in the family.
In view of the fact that I was a downtrodden child, with a mother who offered no praise or encouragement and constantly reminded me to ‘know my place’ and ‘speak when spoken to’ I went through life thinking I had neither appeal nor aptitude. Only now do realise I wasn’t too bad at a lot of things, but especially craftwork and writing.
My Dad was an artist too, but his imagination and creativity was not with the arts.
He was a whiz with wood. By trade a carpenter and joiner, if there was wood to be turned he was your man.
Uncle Norman was musical. He was the youngest of Dad's family. This is him when he was 80. I don’t recall him ever playing an instrument but he sure could sing. He had a fine voice; it reached the rafters in church. From birth he was a sufferer of osteogenesis imperfecta, better known as brittle bone disease. Judging by his stunted growth you would not have expected him to have such a fine singing voice. He sang with a well known choir for years and was a popular member of an amateur dramatics group run by the church drama group. Nearly always the star of the show, people would ask if
Norman had a part before
they paid for tickets. They knew they’d have a good laugh if he was in the
show. He died a few years ago, but his memory lives on for many folk.
Encouraged by Ann,
Three Scottish cousins played in the National Youth Orchestra, but the one who shot to fame was Susan: noted concert pianist, writer. She was the first girl to enter the music faculty at
, Kings College Cambridge, and is to this day a joy to listen
My musical career (said with tongue-in-cheek) started when Mom sent me for piano lessons given by an elderly professor of music, at any rate he seemed old to me. I did quite well, gaining two certificates from the Imperial School of Music. The third attempt would have been a doddle if the examiner hadn’t stopped me playing, pointed to a random piece in the sheet music, and ordered me to ‘start again from there….’ That’s when I realised he knew I was playing from memory.
I couldn’t read music … but my memory was fantastic.
The Professor was a dirty old man. He would sit beside his pupils close enough for legs to touch. He liked to squeeze young girls’ thighs as they played. I was very young and shy and scared of adults. I couldn’t fight him nor could I tell my parents. Mom would just accuse me of lying. My immature brain decided that if I memorised everything I could get away from him faster, hence the discovery of fraud at my music examination.
In those days girls kept that sort of thing to themselves. I guess we were ashamed to admit, to put into words that a dirty old man was stroking their thighs. How embarrassing was that?
The stroking didn’t stop at the thigh. I remember my skirt being pulled right up and fingers tugging at the elastic round the knicker leg. I remember making the excuse of wanting the toilet in order to jump off the piano stool and get away from him.
I began to miss lessons, played truant, naively thinking no-one would notice. One day I caught a bus into town, whilst at home the police were organising a search party. Oooo the hiding I got for causing everyone so much worry! None of that ‘are you all right’ rubbish.
But that, as they say, is another story.