Sweetpeas For Dave

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I so wish this was scratch-and-sniff and I could fully share these beautiful sweetpeas wth you all! They have such a powerful scent, my husband’s allergies won’t allow him to be in the same room. But every year he grows me a pot full because they are my favourite flowers and they bloom in July, which is doubly significant as it is my birthday month and also the anniversary of the death of my younger brother, Dave, age 22, who also loved sweetpeas.

I have struggled for some time to find a way to mention him. We as a family find it difficult to talk about him, even after all these years. His death was so violent, so sudden and so incomprehensible. Far fom home. It is still too raw.

This month is so difficult because he died the day after Mum’s birthday, 5 days before my birthday and 7 days before my son’s second birthday, and in between all those dates we had to cope with a post-mortem, an inquest and a funeral. In fact, I learned of his death as I was getting my toddler son ready to attend his friend’s birthday party. I hid my tears as I operated the music for Pass the Parcel and Musical Chairs. Since then, we have added three more July birthdays, so this month is bitter sweet.

One of my other brothers and I have spoken about him in recent times, we have different perspectives as I was away from home in the latter years and there are huge gaps in my memories. However, Judith at Nature Knows Best published a post today that happened to be about grief and the colour of one’s kitchen (yes, really, pop over and read it), and it struck a chord – in particular because we are currently choosing the colour of our kitchen! I commented on her post and it seemed to open a way for me to publish my own post on this topic.

Dave was an artist, poet, lyricist, bongo player; he loved animals, nature programmes and being outside; he hated being cooped up. He worked intermittently, finding it difficult to fit in and adhere to another’s routine. He worked for the park’s department so he could be outside.

When we were young, people thought we were twins, there were only 13 months between us. We both looked like our dad: mousey hair, skinny, short-sighted. He was not in robust health through his short life. I remember him having Scarlet Fever and breathing problems. But he was so strong, he could easily beat me at arm wrestling and I still remember the Chinese burns!

Dave was a bit of a cuckoo and there are few photos of him past a certain age as he rarely seemed to be present for family photos. He was always off doing his own thing. The one below was given to me by my best friend, Denny, with whom he wrote many songs and whose guitar he decorated. Denny still uses it. It is well-worn now!

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I cut some sweetpeas every year and bring them into the house for him. They are fragile, colourful and last only a short time, but they have a strong impact while they bloom and few are unaffected by their appearance.

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Copyright: Chris  McGowan

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Jumpin’, Jivin’ an’ Jiggin’ About: Your Home As Your ‘Gym’!

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We all know any kind of movement is good for us.

We do, don’t we?

(Can’t hear you at the back of the class!) 

At this time of year especially, articles, tweets, tv programmes, Instagram memes all shout at us to get our bodies moving.

Just in case you’re still in any doubt or denial, here is a list of proven benefits:

  • it gets the heart pumping
  • improves circulation
  • builds muscle and bone which improves balance – especially important for those of us no longer in the first flush of youth
  • builds strength and stamina
  • creates endorphins which improves our mood, helps us feel better and therefore helps diminish those January blues and even depression.
  • makes you feel more alert and energetic
  • aids mental clarity, making us more productive and creative at work and home.
  • helps prevent lifestyle diseases like Type 2 diabetes through better control of blood sugar levels
  • helps keep our weight in check – if we also keep an eye on what we eat.
  • helps keep joints mobile and flexible

So, now you really do know that exercise is good for you, you can’t claim ignorance as your get-out clause!

But don’t worry, this post is not about going all out on the crossfit machine or hefting eye-watering weights at the gym. It’s all about movement and fun!

At this time of year, when the Christmas season is over, we feel overfed and lethargic, Spring is in the air and many of us start making plans to go to the gym, start running or take a zumba class.

Trouble is, in the cold months, our resolve can soon start dying a slow death. It’s cold, wet, dark, and miserable. The woodburner or the tv and a glass or cup of something warming are far more attractive. All that money spent on gym fees or trendy neon fit-wear may as well be flushed away for all the use we make of it.

Unfortunately, many of us have also had negative gym experiences or are old enough to remember the torture of school PE classes: being made to run cross-country in freezing conditions wearing t-shirt and shorts, inadequate footwear and with little or no preparation, the booming voice of the wrapped-up PE teacher in our ears decrying our efforts and urging us on, drill-sergeant style. (Anyone who has seen the film ‘An Officer and a Gentleman’ will know what I mean!)

It’s also often difficult if not impossible for many of us to embark on formal exercise regimes due to having small children or sick family members or because we have physical problems of our own or simply can’t afford the expense. So we accept that’s how it has to be and get on with it, skipping over all the articles we see urging us to move more and diverting our eyes from all the pony-tailed, fitbit-wearing runners dashing past the window.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. No more guilt at being a trainer-free home-bod.

Hooray! you shout.

Hang on, you’re not getting off that easily! You still have to move about, just not in a gym or on the road. 

Here are some tips to get it all jiggin’ about:

  1. Your home can be your gym and everyday items your equipment. Little or no expense, warm environment (less chance of injury), relative privacy (though maybe not privacy from your relatives 😉), win-win situation. Your stairs can be your step-exercise, bottles of water or tinned goods your weights, your cd player your zumba instructor.

2. You can even incorporate exercise into your everyday activities.

And no-one needs to see you doing it!

According to the BBC programme ‘Trust Me, I’m a Doctor,’ * a group of people over 40 – and therefore losing muscle, I think the oldest was 67 – incorporated exercise into their daily activities. Over a month on average they gained 3% more muscle, 12% more muscle strength, 13% more muscle power and 4% more grip strength.

So how did they do it?

Visit the website to see in detail, but basically:

  • squats and standing on one leg while brushing their teeth
  • heel-raising while washing-up
  • lunges while vacuuming
  • arm curls with juice cartons or tins
  • wall presses.

You get the picture.

I would add to these:

  • using the stairs as often as possible
  • doing step-ups, and also hanging your heel off the edge of the step to stretch your calf muscles and tendons
  • standing up from a chair and sitting back down without using your hands during advert breaks while watching tv or sitting at your desk
  • doing a walking circuit of your home as often as possible
  • in an upright chair with arms, press down on the arms and raise your bottom from the seat for as long as is comfortable
  • even on your commute, on buses, trains or planes, you can raise alternate knees, toes and heels (maybe not in a car – unless you’re a passenger!)
  • on fine days, take a turn around the garden, up and down your driveway or around the block, look up at the sky, the trees, the birds, breathe and smile!

Exercising needs to be fun too or you’ll never stick to it. Here comes the Jumpin’, Jivin’ an’ Jiggin’ About bit! (At last!)

3. One piece of exercising equipment I would recommend investing in if you can manage it is a rebounder. You don’t have to jump like an Olympian!

Rebounders are not trampolines. They are not as springy and provide more resistance. And kids please note: don’t even attempt to do somersaults! Parents please note: children should always be supervised because they *will* attempt to do somersaults!

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NASA-approved, this method of exercising is accessible to most people if you start off slowly and simply, just gently bending your knees then graduating to lifting your heels and low bouncing before trying anything more energetic.

A couple of rebounding sessions a day exercises all parts of the body, gets your lymphatic system moving – strengthening your immune system and clearing out waste and toxins – and makes you feel more alive.

And it’s great fun.

Kids naturally love trampolining and this is great for getting them to exercise during the winter months when they can’t use the one in the garden. It tempts them away from their screens for a while which is always a good thing. Even the smallest members of our family make straight for it when they come for a visit. They are great family fun. (Again, children should always be supervised).

The Juicemaster website* sells various sizes of rebounders, the smaller ones fold up and have a carrying case. I can vouch for their quality and endurance.

4. Just dance like no-one is watching!

With or without a partner, dancing with reckless abandon is the best way to forget your worries and feel alive! Put on your favourite music, the one you like singing aloud to at high volume and just go for it! (see video below).

You can jig about when you’re in the kitchen – my regular readers will know that I often like to attach a YouTube track to accompany my recipes – or when you’re cleaning or tidying up, doing the ironing, doing a bike repair (one for you, K and S!😉). I have even seen my neighbour doing her ironing to the accompaniment of reggae music in her back garden in the summer, not caring a jot if anyone saw her.

In general, whatever your age, state of health, fitness or finances, any movement is better than no movement.

(I realise there are certain health conditions where this may not be appropriate).

5. Many of us, especially older people, get stiff joints and cold legs from sitting. While reading, doing the crossword or watching tv, you can raise your knees and heels up and down, rotate your ankles and wrists, stretch out your fingers and make a fist, walk about during the ad breaks even if it’s only to get up and make a cup of tea. Clench alternate groups of muscles and release. Do shoulder rotations.

img_2421My husband exercising on a borrowed rowing machine in the garage with a broken arm. He also used one of those stretchy bands that physios use which come in different levels of flexibility.

Do what you’re able and what you enjoy – with your family, friends or on your own. Walk, cycle, laugh, sing – they all exercise your body inside and out.

Just do!

6. Oh, and btw, apparently, exercising is more effective in burning fat if men exercise on an empty stomach and women after eating. (I can hear all the women cheering from the gallery!)

Ps Whatever form of exercise you do, be sure to warm up and stretch first,  and ease into it – it won’t do you much good if you pull a back muscle or sprain an ankle in your first session!

PPs If you have any concerns about whether or not you should follow any of the advice above, please do talk to your doctor.

*Trust Me, I’m A Doctor – you can watch on BBC iPlayer

*Juicemaster: Rebounders

(Thanks to Clive at Take It Easy for putting me on to these guys!)

Copyright: Chris McGowan

In Case You Miss Me, I’ll Be Recovering From An Attack Of The Vapours…

Just a quick post to let you know I’ll be AWOL for a couple of weeks from this Wednesday, 16th November. I’m taking some personal time (as they say in American police dramas) to have some osteopathy and some rest and recuperation.

I enjoy Christmas but always feel the strain of the pre-Christmas period: I am already tired from making lists, cards, sorting out gifts and postage for overseas and trying to accommodate everyone’s visiting dates, which keep changing! However, I think I am also feeling the strain of the past year of referendum and election campaigns, of the general atmosphere pervading our world at the moment, plus concerns about family and friends who are dealing with their own challenges.

I need some time to refresh my spirit and prepare for the season ahead.

Besides all the above, HB is putting up shelves. This may not be earth-shattering news or normally require one to take to one’s bed with the exhaustion of it all, but it is Monday and this one shelf has been going up since Thursday! Battens are up and have undercoat on them, shelf has undercoat but is not up. It took 3 days of measuring and re-measuring before a hole was drilled.

We discussed and disagreed at every point because my eyes told me the shelf slopes down to the right, but his spirit level said it was straight. My eyes are always right. The battens went up, the shelf was laid on top. HB’s reaction? ‘It slopes to the right, doesn’t it?!’

So, all in all, a long road ahead before 4 shelves are in place and I’m going to need all my strength to cope!

I’ve scheduled some posts for while I’m away, but won’t be able to respond to comments for a while.

Take care of yourselves, I’ll be back!

Copyright: Chris McGowan

Ode to Our Piano – Flowers & Phew!

(Here are the links to the previous 3 chapters if you want to catch up: Ode to Our Piano: A Faithful & Long-Suffering FriendOde to Our Piano: What Happened NextOde to Our Piano: Guess What?)

I know some of you want to know the latest in our Piano Saga and I said I wasn’t going to write Part 4, partly because I thought people might be bored but also because I was too scared to discover the final outcome myself!

This premature decision was hastily reversed, however, when on this radiantly beautiful morning I received a visit from Garden Glove Love Lady (see earlier posts and later in this one) bearing some pink carnations, which she handed over with a radiantly beautiful smile and a laughing ‘thank you’ at my happily bemused expression.

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I gushed with pleasure both at the flowers but mostly at her being on my doorstep, because secretly I really had wanted to find out if she did acquire the piano after all and if it was still ok. I metaphorically bundled her in to tell me all about it, not giving her a chance to say Oh but …!

She was so happy and so grateful that we had passed on her phone number to the first lady who could no longer keep the piano due to her neighbour’s complaint about the noise. At present it is sitting in her garage as they can’t get it through the hall – uh-oh, my stomach lurched – but she thinks it will be fine, they are going to take it through into the house via the garage.

She also said that her husband, a mechanical engineer, who didn’t really want the piano and had to be coaxed into it by wife and children, was now keen to have a go at fixing the flat key and  left pedal which has never worked. He also thinks he can tune it! So now he has a project, the children have their piano to practise on and GGL lady can finally have the piano lessons she’s always wanted to have in the privacy of her own home while the family are out at school and work and not around to laugh or offer ‘advice’!

It is fascinating to me how these things turn out. We have been neighbours for 8 years but never met or spoken until she answered a leaflet my husband had distributed about my request for old garden gloves to donate to the rag children of Nepal. She came round a long time after I had given up hope of getting any response from anyone and handed me some gloves she had found at her sister’s. We exchanged first names and she said she would find some more. I didn’t see her again. Then we advertised the piano at our garden gate and the first lady came and arranged to have it taken to her newly built house down the street. We had never met either. A couple of days later GGL lady came to ask if the piano was still available. We had to disappoint her but took her number just in case. And then we were able to put her in touch with the first lady, whose daughter is so disappointed at having to give up her prize after being so excited to have it.

It turns out that she is school friends with the daughter of GGL lady who has told her she can come round and play it any time she wants!

And so the circle is closed.

Our precious piano has a new loving home, is helping a very sad  child come through her disappointment and is providing the opportunity for a woman to fulfil her dream of learning to play but not having had the confidence to do so before. Her children have an instrument to practise on and the husband has a new project. Apparently, her son strokes it as he goes past and they all love her looks despite her best years being well behind her.

And best of all, I get a new room!

We took the carpet up the other day and look what we found:

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I am smiling again ☺️

Copyright: Chris McGowan

Ode to Our Piano: Guess What?

(For Parts 1 and 2 see Ode to Our Piano and What Happened Next)

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Okay, so where we? Oh yes, our beloved old piano moved house yesterday to take up residence with a family of six children.

Except…

Make a brew and pull up a pew, this could take a while, the old lady hasn’t quite finished her story yet…

Last night I went bed sad at waving goodbye to our friend of 33 years but consoling myself – as lots of you have reminded me – that she will be given lots of love and attention in her new environment. When I got up today, I peeked in the ‘piano’ room and my heart skipped a beat. It looks cavernous, not helped by the fact that the shelves and their contents have also been removed while the floor is replaced and the room decorated. But, that’s ok, it will be alright in the end. We can get on with it now that we don’t have to work out how to manage the piano in amongst all the upheaval.

We went about our day, ‘discussing’ paint for the better part of it – our daughter is coming this weekend to paint the garage too (she’s bored, poor thing, so we thought we’d find her something useful to do or she’ll start decluttering again and they barely have a seat to sit on after the last one!) HB wants Forest Green ie the same colour he always does it, I want Sage, but there’s a £33 difference in price so guess who wins – again! (I’m keeping my powder dry, cos there’s the ‘piano’ room to come, haha!)

Anyway, back to the story…HB was about to go and buy the paint when I could hear him talking on the phone and his tone was downbeat, then I heard him say ‘I’m very sorry to hear that, I’ll speak to you soon.’ My stomach lurched. Those words usually mean only one thing, but as I’d spoken to everyone in my family in the last 24 hours, I realised it could mean only one *other* thing: a problem with the piano. It doesn’t play. It broke in the transfer. The daughter doesn’t like it. It’s too old and ugly. The husband hates it, it takes up too much room.

He trudges up the stairs to where I am resting in anticipation of the onslaught of testosterone later today when my grandsons descend on us. I hear his sigh and prepare myself for the words that are sure to come out of his mouth…

It doesn’t fit.

Come again? IT DOESN’T FIT?!!!

It doesn’t fit.

WHY DIDN’T ANYONE THINK TO TAKE A TAPE MEASURE AND MAKE SURE IT WOULD FIT?!

(I am a little overwrought by now)

They had to put it in the lounge, not the room they’d planned on becoming *their* piano room, and the neighbours have complained! Already!

‘Would you like it back?!’

ARE YOU KIDDING?!

DID THEY NOT TELL YOU HOW HARD IT WAS TO GET IT OUT AND HOW MUCH PAINT WENT WITH IT??

(Stressed and Distressed don’t adequately describe my demeanour now)

DO YOU NOT UNDERSTAND HOW HARD IT WAS TO LET IT GO AND NOW YOU WANT US TO GO THROUGH IT ALL AGAIN?!

Ok, calm down, Chris. All is not lost. She is just making sure.

She understood that a second person had asked us about the piano after she had said she wanted it. Yes, yes, that’s right! The lady was so disappointed when we called her last night to confirm it had gone. Yes, we’ll give you her number. Oh, but, wait a second, we told her there was one being advertised in the local newsagent’s and she was going to check it out. We’ll phone her and see.

SHE STILL WANTS IT!

Oh, thank you, thank you…

She has two children who play saxophone and want to have piano lessons at school but don’t have an instrument to practise on. Plus, she also came round a few weeks ago to donate some garden gloves for our Garden Glove Love collection, so that’s reassuring, too.

There’s a tiny snag, just a small, teeny tiny one: her husband wasn’t keen the first time she came to ask, but she had cajoled him into agreeing. She would have to go through it all again.

And so we wait…

See Ode to Our Piano – Flowers & Phew! for the final installment!

Copyright: Chris McGowan

Ode to Our Piano – What Happened Next…

Previously, in Ode to Our Piano …

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When we left off, our lovely old walnut piano was to be collected by Forces Support, the charity that supports families of injured and lost service personnel, providing professional help with unfinished house and garden projects. We were so pleased and relieved that such a great charity was going to benefit.

Here’s what happened next…

imageThey didn’t turn up! The van broke down. They did, however, come the following week. With no wheels and a broken tailgate lift. There were two of them. A big strapping young man and a small, pencil-thin 17 year old who looked like he’d fall over if you breathed on him. He was horrified when he saw the size and weight of the piano. He wouldn’t even try to lift the lid, let alone the whole item. I felt sorry for him. The strong guy kept looking at it and huffing and puffing, clearly shocked at the fact that a) it was a piano not a sideboard that he had to pick up and b) the weight of said item.  No way were they going to be able to get it out of the house let alone into the back of the truck.

They left, apologetically, saying they would report back to HQ and see if they could get more bodies, some wheels and a truck with a working lift. They would call us in an hour.

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Nope. None of those things came to pass. Next day, when I called, their manager said he had no further help and no other van and so we agreed that it would not be possible for them to take it after all. We were so deflated.

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We couldn’t believe how hard it was to donate such a beloved piece of our family history! During all of this, I had read that a recycling plant in Bristol destroys 300 old pianos a week because no-one wants them. They cost up to £6000 to recondition and people can buy new ones from China for £600.

Everyone I told said ‘It’s a sign’ and ‘You have to keep it’. It made me tear up, but the decision was made and it had to go.

We reluctantly looked at eBay, but pianos were just not selling, even for 99p. Next was an ad on Freecycle, but even that was against us: the photo went on upside down!

imageFinally, the tried and tested method of giving stuff away for free: a notice on the garden gate! We put one on the drive gate, one on the path gate.

The piano was positioned in the window to be shown off to its best advantage. All the schoolchildren filed past day after day, some craning their necks to take a look, some laughing at our tomfoolery, one girl took down our number. The signs were in plastic covers and tied on tightly, but they blew about forlornly in the wind and rain. Even the weather had its opinion.

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After several days we had all but given up. We were resigning ourselves to sending the piano to the local recycling centre – for which we would have to pay.

Late one afternoon, however, after the schoolchildren had paraded past once again, there was a light tap on the front door. I struggled to get to the door and couldn’t find the key! Eventually I opened it to find a woman standing there with her son still in school uniform.

Hesitantly, she asked if the piano was really available for free. Yes, Yes, Yes! Come in, I gushed, ushering them in like they were the Royal Family. She took one look and said I love it! Wait, I said, for I didn’t want any more hitches, you have to know that the left pedal has never worked and the third bottom key doesn’t work and the cat knocked over a vase of flowers on this corner, so there’s a mark and… and…

I could ‘hear’ my husband hissing stop, stop, you’ll put her off! but I wanted to make sure she knew what she was getting.

I’ll have it! she laughed. I laughed. Her son looked on amused almost shaking his head at these oldies.

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It turns out she has 6 children. The son who was with her, Will, had seen the ad on the gate and told her about it. His 13 year old sister, Lottie (love their names), was desperate to play piano and was teaching herself via YouTube! They thought she would love ours. I was delighted it was going to another family.

So today, their older brother, Sam, and his two unsuspecting mates turned up with a van – and no wheels! – and after half an hour of pulling and pushing this way and that, turning it first one way, then around, a lot of head-scratching ensued – how did we get it in there in the first place?!  Then, after getting it and one of the lad’s thumbs and another’s toe wedged against the door jamb and the staircase, they got it out, on its side. My heart was in my mouth the whole time, concerned someone would put their back out and at the way this poor old lady was being manhandled. I completely missed the photo of the successful manoeuvre when they had to tip it up!

I hope it’s not completely wrecked and they’re not disappointed.  Of course, these poor lads had to do it all again at the other end, which was just down the street.

So bye-bye, piano. My eyes filled up as they drove away.

She has finally gone.

Along with half the paintwork!

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Except, it didn’t end there! See Ode to Our Piano: Guess What?

Copyright: Chris McGowan

Ode To Our Piano, a Faithful and Long-Suffering Friend

Today is a momentous day. A dear friend is leaving us and I am quite emotional about it. The silly thing is, it was my idea. But that was last year. It was a whim. I don’t think I ever really meant to do it. But then, in the spirit of change that has swept through our house this past year, the idea grew wings and took flight last week when my husband suddenly uttered those fateful words: ‘if we got rid of the piano we’d have a lot more space.’

I let it sit. I thought about it. I felt sick. I went round and round with it. All the grandchildren loved playing around on it. Our daughter had her first lessons on it. My husband spent decades trying to play Frère Jacques on it (I won’t miss that!!) Our gorgeous ginger cat, Charlie, used to sit imperiously on the top, watching us all (and gave me a hard lesson about vases of flowers on pianos when she knocked it over and ruined the bottom notes forever).

And how can we forget our 5 year old daughter getting up at dawn on Sunday mornings, wearing her purple Victorian-style dress with its lace collar, Mickey Mouse shower cap on her head (!), singing Madonna’s ‘Like a Virgin’ while dusting and polishing her piano. (How I wish I had a photo of that, there must be one, surely!)

I remember the trapped fingers, the music holder breaking as Number 1 grandson and friend let the lid drop before folding it back; the blackbird that somehow came down the chimney, got trapped in the big lampshade then found its way into the back of the piano and refused to come out! Every toddler in the family has had his or her first music lesson on that piano. It is in the background of all our Christmas photos, bedecked with holly from our garden and candles made by our grandsons.

But the hardest part of letting go is the reason we have it in the first place.

Our daughter and her grandma were close: it was a relationship built on a mutual love of Polo mints and cleaning! She always carried a packet in the pocket of her apron and Grandma’s housework routine definitely had an influence on her grand-daughter. (If anyone needs any decluttering done, she’s the one to call!) Sadly, when our daughter was only just five, her grandma suddenly became ill and died.

Here is a photo of Grandma (wearing the ubiquitous apron) with me, taken in her garden where she had just cut me a bunch of sweetpeas, my favourite flowers.

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When Grandma died, there was a little insurance money which the family had to fight hard to claim – Denis Healey, former MP and then Lord Healey, helped us – and we wanted to do something special with it. We wanted it to be spent on something significant, that she would have liked and that would keep her with us. My husband said she always liked the piano even though she never learned, I too had always wanted a piano and our daughter had been showing interest when she went to nursery where they used to sing around the piano every day. So this seemed a good idea. We bought a reconditioned Wilson walnut upright with flower inlay, you could see that it used to have candle holders too.

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The chair was Grandma’s and went perfectly.

It was so exciting when the piano was delivered. We had a piano! I never thought I would see the day. I remembered my great-grandma’s black piano with the lace runner on top; the brown upright in our school hall that I loved to watch Miss Johnson play every morning in assembly, her toes going up and down and her fingers operating magically all at the same time; my best friend’s dark mahogany piano that I always envied and wished I could learn to play. Her mum said I could practise on it if I had lessons, but we couldn’t afford them. The nearest I ever came to playing an instrument was my wooden recorder! (But I could read music).

We organised lessons for our daughter when she was seven and I was sure it wasn’t just a whim. She and I would go along to her tutor’s house on a Saturday morning, and I would sit fascinated by the number of pianos and keyboards he had, always trying to work out how he got the grand piano into the living room – which also had an upright – and once when that room was having some work done, we had to go upstairs into a tiny box room where he somehow managed to fit an upright and two keyboards. It was like the Tardis.

In years to come, she went on to do her grades and play clarinet, five recorders and guitar. She loved Tori Amos and worked her way through her songbook during her student years, having long since given up formal lessons.

Now, her sons are having music lessons. They chose violin as their first instrument, and their mum accompanied them on our piano during reluctant violin practice at our house in the holidays. Here is the youngest teaching himself on the same piano having found his mum’s beginner’s book. He and his mum played a trick on me when, in a very bored voice, he called me to come listen to him do his violin practice. I found his mum playing violin and him at the piano with a cheeky grin on his face! He has since become keen on keyboard and drums and likes to compose his own music.

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This instrument took on such significance in our lives that it even had a room named after it: being in the fortunate position of having two living rooms, one of them became ‘the piano room’!

The piano also became a repository for significant, much-loved items:

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From the left, a cookie jar from Portugal (a wedding gift from student friends), my great-uncle Billy’s bachelor silver teapot (an apprentice’s passing-out piece), the Russian sculpture of a young woman’s head that has a thick plait down the back (a birthday present from my husband two days before our son’s first birthday). Next, my husband’s Morris Minor teapot, a gift from my mum and a replica of his real life pride and joy. Finally, the cake stand made for me by my very talented son, who seems to be able to turn his hand to creating something from anything being thrown out or abandoned. In the earlier photo of my grandson, you can just see in front of the sculpture, there is a clock he made from a bicycle tyre!

(Where am I going to keep all these now?)

This room’s become a bit of a museum: it also houses my great-grandma’s rocking chair, my grandmother’s Father Christmas cream jug, my great-aunt’s porcelain basket of flowers, a three-legged stool my mum bought me when our son was born and a more modern version made by Number Two grandson at school last year. That’s not to mention the shelves of photograph albums and 70’s cds (husband’s).

It’s time to let go. Our grandchildren live a long way from us and are growing up fast. The oldest (below) gave up piano and harp long ago, the boys now have their own piano and keyboard, the tiny ones will no doubt also benefit from them, too. When everyone visits, there’s never enough room to sit (especially in winter when everyone gravitates to the room with the woodburner), and I want the room to have a makeover.

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So we’re saying goodbye to our old friend. We wanted her to go to a new home, but finding one was a bit of a struggle. The local charity shops didn’t want it. Age UK* didn’t want it. I widened my search to the surrounding towns and a lovely lady in a Sue Ryder* charity shop gave me the name of a new shop nearby: Forces Support*. They help families of injured and lost servicemen and women with house and garden maintenance and building projects etc that were started but can no longer be finished off. The man who answered my call couldn’t have been more helpful or welcoming and once he had found his ‘spectacles’ took down my details and arranged a day for collection.

Now we are just waiting for the men to arrive. Agony of agonies, they phoned last week to say the van had broken down and could we rearrange?! It’s somewhat nerve-wracking. A bit like the day we had to take a very old and sick Charlie to the vets and she didn’t come home.

My eyes are watering.

Not long to go and it will all be over.**

Hang on: what are we going to call the piano room now it no longer has a piano in it?!

*http://www.ageuk.org.uk/

*http://www.sueryder.org/

*http://www.forcessupport.org.uk/

*

** Except it wasn’t! See Ode to Our Piano – What Happened Next…Ode to Our Piano: Guess What?, and Ode to Our Piano – Flowers & Phew!

Here’s a fun video of Laurel and Hardy’s The Music Box to cheer us up! (If you’re reading this via email, you’ll need to click Like or Comments to take you direct to the post so you can see it).

Copyright: Chris McGowan