21 May 2018

ARTISTIC TALENTS, a repeat from February 2010

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. I've added the names for ease of identification.

And here's Mom and Dad on their own, you can tell by the style of photograph that it's an old one

Whatever the character of the photographs, they elicit forgotten memories that are worth savouring. Here are some of mine for your amusement.

My family on my Dad’s side was both musical and artistic. 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, craft-work, art 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 placespeak when spoken to, and what will neighbours think when they look at you? (referring to my habit of leaving coats undone) 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, especially craftwork and writing.

My Dad was an artist, too, but although he was good at drawing his imagination and creativity was not with the arts. He was a wiz with wood. By trade a carpenter and joiner, if there was wood to be turned he was your man. He loved to surprise Mom and me, doing things in the home when we were out. New bits and pieces would appear. I particularly remember door handles, big and extraordinary works of art that were the talk of the neighbourhood.

As a child I was the proud possessor of a magnificent fully furnished dolls house, a dolls cradle, pencil cases, 3-tier needlework boxes, and a wonderful desk and stool, tongue and grooved to perfection. When I married he delighted in creating things for my new home, a radio stand that was an exact wooden replica of the bird bath, a cork topped, carved legged card table that was the envy of the family and fought over when he died. I still have the desk.


The youngest sibling, my Uncle Norman, was musical. I don’t recall him ever playing an instrument but he sure could sing. He had a fine voice that 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 bought tickets. They knew they’d have a good laugh if he was in the show. He is no longer with us but his memory lives on for many folk.


Encouraged by Ann, Norman’s wife, who is acclaimed for her work with oils, Aunt Florence took up painting. She delighted in transferring images of her garden to paper, with which she taught me everything I needed to know about plant life. However, her special talent was marquetry, producing wonderful pictures from different types of wood veneer.

Three Scottish cousins played in the National Youth Orchestra, but the one who shot to fame was Susan: noted concert pianist, writer, and pride of the family. She was the first girl to enter the music faculty at Kings CollegeCambridge, and is to this day a joy to listen to.

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, always fearing what they would say. 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, actually 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, while 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.


  1. Valerie, I remember this post back in 2010, but it was such JOY to read again! I LOVE looking at old photographs, even if I don't personally know anyone in them because I find it fascinating to imagine who they are and what they were like. I also love to see the vintage clothing!

    I especially love the photograph of your mother and father. You resemble both of them. And what a great suit your father is wearing. I so miss how nicely everyone used to dress.

    "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, especially craftwork and writing."

    You said it, my friend. You are such a gifted writer! Isn't it something how we learn to grow through things that happened to us in our childhood?

    Sounds like you got your creative talents from your father and his side of the family. That's awesome!

    "The Professor was a dirty old man." Wow...what a scary experience. Nowadays, with all the sexual assaults that have been ucovered and exposed, that professor would have been immediately investigated.

    Enjoyed reading this post again!

    Have a fabulous week!

    1. Ron, it is funny that you mentioned looking like my parents. The resemblance hit the whole family, all the uncles looked alike, and so did all their offspring. It was the look of the males rather than females, but all their offspring have the likeness. It has been a family joke for many years.

      'Isn't it something how we learn to grow through things that happened to us in our childhood?'

      Indeed, and in my opinion us cousins all made a good job of it.

  2. THe neighbors should have been talking about the dirty old man! Amazing how much bad crap happened because we were so uptight people looked the other way.

    I wish I could memorize better, I can play a piece on guitar a thousand times and still need the chord progressions in front of me.

    1. I wonder if the neighbours knew, Joeh. I can't think I was the only pupil who suffered the wandering hand so they must all have kept quiet. The guy was a professor, a name which means nothing now but was revered at the time.
      Keep trying with the guitar although - does it matter?

  3. What a talented family you had. Too bad your Mother didn't appreciate you.
    What a dirty old man your music teacher was . I have a similar story about an Uncle that I buried too.

    1. Hi Janet. Recently, I spotted the piano teachers name in a local rag and it made me recall all those wasted piano lessons and what happened there. After a while I realised it couldn't be the same man since he was a lot older than me and probably dead by now.

  4. This was a first-time read for me, Valerie, and like Ron I too like looking at old photos and will always stop and look at them in vintage shops (and sometimes wonder about the people in them). Your dad sounds like a wonderful and very talented craftsman. Too bad your mother wasn't good with compliments or appreciation. And that piano teacher was indeed a nasty man and you are so right that years ago groping and touching were not spoken about - what a shame.

    1. I often wonder, Beatrice, why we kept things quiet. It wouldn't happen now. These days things are shouted from rooftops!!

  5. Attitudes have changed so much, haven't they? it is sad that the victim so often takes the shame. That is a nice photo of your dad and mum, and how talented your dad sounds. In fact, so many of the family. It is a pity your mother was not supportive, but perhaps she herself had had her confidence hit when she was young and knew no better. Although the post is a repeat, I hadn't read it before, so it was all new to me.

    1. I don't know about if my mother had her own problems, Jenny. She came from a poor home, one of eight children, and left at an early age to take up nursing. I think she was determined to make a life for herself. Her family was always very proud of her but mother always seemed ashamed of them.

  6. You come from a very talented family Valerie. We all have talents and should be encouraged to use them.

  7. What wonderful old pictures. These are treasures to be passed on to the next generations.
    I laughed when I read - the police were organising a search party.

  8. Thank you, Haddock, and thanks for visiting

  9. What a horrid experience you had with the piano teacher. One of my sister-in-laws was groped by her piano teacher when she was a child, years ago. After it went on for a long time she found the courage to tell her mother. He used to touch her boobs etc. I wonder if it was the same man?

    1. Hi Joe, from what I read in the press music teachers, especially pianists, take advantage of time alone with a client. Nobody else in the room gives golden opportunities to groping monsters.


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