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.
We are discussing a comprehension paper on ‘Discoveries’, Class Six and I. One of the Gentleman Scientists discussed (and they are all gentleman, alas) was Alexander Graham Bell. I happen to know everything about the telephone, having read a couple of paragraphs on the subject once in a Bill Bryson book. So I share with the class my favourite fact, namely that, until Alexander’s friend Mr Watson invented the telephone bell some years later, the only way to know if someone was telephoning you was to pick up the receiver and check if they were on the other end.
One of the lassies frowns and raises her hand. “Even if it didn’t ring, you’d know someone was calling because the phone would vibrate,” she suggests. There is general agreement, swiftly followed by mild astonishment when I explained that the original phone neither rung nor vibrated. I didn’t break it to them that it didn’t take photos either: humankind cannot bear very much reality.
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.
“So I called the boys into my office and we had a very stern conversation about swearing in the playground … the need for the oldest children in the school to act as good role models … the consequences should this behaviour recur. Then I sent them off to apologise to the dinner ladies.
“I watched them walk down the corridor and, as they turned the corner, Yob 1 turned to Yob 2 and, um, did this …”
“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.”
“Who’s he? Have we seen him before?”
“He’s married to the woman who posts the blog.”
“The vlog. We’ve established it’s a vlog.”
“Yes her. With the blond hair.”
“OK. Can you pause it a minute? OK. Tak.”
Put aside quilt. Dash into bedroom and return with reel of thread. Install self back on sofa and start to thread needle.
“OK?” says ActorLaddie. “Say when.”
“Nu. Tak… Hang on – who’s he? Is that the Russian Roulette guy?”
Walking through the school at lunchtime, when I was greeted by a cheery Year Two. She clocked my right hand, frowned a little and said “do you break lots of plates?”
“No,” I replied.
“Ok,” she said.
Nice to feel she could ask…