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.


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:


I am smiling again ☺️

Copyright: Chris McGowan

A Sweet Distraction: Almond Apricot Chia Treats


Mug from The Raw Chocolate Company website.*

These were created the day our beloved piano was going to a new home and we needed a distraction and something sweet! (Ok, I needed the distraction and something sweet – see Ode To Our Piano, a Faithful and Long-Suffering Friend). I apologise that this is a short post, I’m too emotional to write anything sensible!

All ingredients are organic except the maple syrup. Vegan and Gluten-free.


1 Cup Almond Milk Pulp (residue of approx 1L of nut milk)

1/3 Cup Dried Apricots

1/3 Cup Almonds

3  Medjool Dates, pitted

1 Tbsp Chia Seeds*

1 Tbsp Golden Linseeds, partially ground

1 Tbsp solid raw Coconut Oil

1/2 Tbsp Maple Syrup

1/4 Cup Raw Chocolate Mulberry Chips*

Raw Cacao Powder for Dusting (that’s dusting the treats, not the piano)


Place first 5 ingredients in food processor and process for about 30 seconds until it comes together and almonds are chopped into small pieces but not ground.

Add partially ground Golden Linseeds, solid Coconut oil and Maple Syrup and process for a few seconds to mix in and further break up the almonds but still leaving bits for bite.

Add in Mulberry Chips and whizz for a few seconds to mix them in but not pulverize them!

Take small pieces and roll into balls in the palms of your hands, then dust with Raw Cacao Powder.

Place in the fridge for a few minutes to firm up.

Keep in an airtight container in the fridge or freeze for later.


Ode to Our Piano: Guess What?

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


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


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.


(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?!’



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


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.


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 …


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.


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.


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.


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.


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!


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.


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.


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.

2014-02-19 10.32.36

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:


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.


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?!





** 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