Margaret played first clarinet and collected the subs. In truth, we barely knew each other; I mimed with the second flutes and we rarely rubbed shoulders with our reeded sisters.
But she sent me an email in June 2012 which meant a lot to me at the time and still sits in my Parkinson’s folder, in case of wobbles.
“It’s one thing joining a gym – it’s another actually going.” She was a wise bird, our old GP: retired now, alas. Of my pregnancy with the InfantPhenomenon, she said: “a summer baby, how lovely! You’ll be able to sit in pub gardens.” Not my first thought but she had four children so knew whereof she spake.
I wasn’t put to the piano as a child. Refused the offer of lessons, apparently: as good a reason as any to invent time travel. But I’d really like to be able to play and, to quote Bro-In-Law – a man of infinite resource and sagacity – when someone asked him why he’d just taken up learning Gypsy Jazz Guitar, “I decided not to wait until I was younger.”
I did sort of start learning about twenty years ago but, what with teaching full-time and having two children, practice never seemed to reach the top of the To-Do list. So the enterprise was shelved, pending retirement. Which is Now.
Jim next door has Parkinson’s. They’ve suspected it for a while, Jim and Ann, and given his symptoms – asymmetrical pill-rolling style tremor; writing gone very small – I suspected it too. But they had to wait ages to see a neurologist and finally got confirmation last week.
Ann came round to tell me and asked how long it was since I’d been diagnosed. Just over four years, I told her, and tried to look jolly and bouncing with health. Which, actually, I am. Pretty much.
“We’d been calling all afternoon,” said Douglas’s daughter. “We were about to have one last try when he rang us. Apparently he’d been out with some neighbours. They’d gone, Dad told us, to ‘sing to the old people’.” (Douglas was nearly ninety four.) “I do hope he mimed. Even the old people don’t deserve Dad’s singing.”
Everyone was looking at me as I reached for the nappies. What on earth was I doing here, now? I skulked around the baby wipes, trying to ignore the frowns. Would I need a bottle steriliser? The NCT lady said no, but my cousin, Young Bessie, had said yes and she is a woman of infinite resource and sagacity. I tried to ignore them all tutting as I picked up the Milton, but I could smell the disapproval.