My piano has returned!!!
It has been ten months.
The Piano Specialist Man supervises some men with tattoos, who heave the newly-restored instrument up the drive. Being solid wood with an iron frame it is heavier than James Joyce, and they struggle with their wheely thing on the gravel which I have spitefully laid to thwart them.
I have an urge to walk beside them, picking out comic silent film music on the keyboard to accompany. But I do not know any, and they would probably hit me and the Piano Specialist Man would push a metronome up my arse.
We reach the open French windows and I indicate the special piano-sized alcove in the room beyond. There is some debate as to whether it is actually piano-sized, or whether it is just smaller than actually piano-sized, but all is well. All the while, the Piano Specialist Man has been talking to me about the minutae of felt replacement hammer procedures and string reduction tensions. Occasionally he strokes the wood, lovingly.
The Piano Specialist Man is an enthusiast. He is a pleasure to talk to, as are all enthusiasts, with one caveat. That is, that I have mentioned repeatedly that I don’t really play the piano that well, that I’m certainly not classically trained, that I don’t really have a clue about the inside of pianos other than you press the white notes and the music sounds, that I hadn’t noticed for thirty-five years that the soft pedal was broken as I’ve never used the soft pedal, that Croatian or Egyptian hammer felts are all the same to me and that really, whilst I love it as a historic instrument, I only ever use it for going ‘plinky plonk’ on.
Of course he has never taken any of this in, so I have politely nodded and demurred and stuff when he has asked me my opinion about various subtle adjustments he has made.
“I will just check that nothing has shifted during transit,” he announces, sitting down and playing a concerto or whatever. It is very impressive and sounds terrific, and is probably by Tchaikovsky or Brahms.
“Perfect!” he whimpers. “Will you…?” he offers, vacating the stool and looking expectantly.
I have the sudden irrational urge to sit down, take a deep breath and hammer out ‘Chopsticks’ with the full force of my middle fingers, before leaping up and exclaiming “that’s bloody lovely, that is!!!”. That, or the theme from Minder.
Politeness prevails. I do not want him to do the metronome thing, or get his goons to slam my fingers in the lid. I explain in a lying fashion that my neighbour Short Tony is working next door and I do not like to disturb him. After more discourse on the sonic qualities of single strings, and the handing-over of an X-rated cheque, I am on my own with my piano.
I have written before of the instrument’s history, of the many songs that were composed or arranged on it during the first half of the last century: some immediately forgotten, some popular at the time but now lost or hopelessly out of fashion, some still in the public consciousness today, such as “Sally”, made famous by Gracie Fields. And now, sat at this beautiful inherited link to my family’s disappearing past, thousands of pounds poorer due to the ridiculous, romantic whim of restoration, I know in my heart what the very first piece of music to pick out on it should be.
I play the theme from Minder.