Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Atishoo! Atishoo! We All Fall Down

Does anyone know who might be the God of Good Health? And what I need do to get into his/her good books again?

We are the House of Sickness! I may as well wear a nose bouquet, paint a cross on the door and have done with it. First, there was the migraine (mine), then the wobbles (mine) then the cold-virus-flu thing with the temperature and the sore throat and the funny tummy (me and Anna-Mouse simultaneously - we had simultaneous doctor's appointments with different doctors, too, which made for rather a stressful visit, seeing as only me and her were there, and I could hardly send her off on her own); then came the cough, the dreaded nighttime variety which wakes everyone up as soon as everyone is asleep (me and Anna-Mouse); then came the sinusitis-with-the-worst headache ever (the Bim) - oh please let it end.

We are also the House of Drugs: paracetamol by the packetful, cold cures and herbal potions and can I just say - where, oh where would we be at 3 in the morning without Calpol, other than at our wits' end... And although we've all rallied rather valiantly, we have also had our moments with the generally gloomy spirits that accompany such a pox-filled house.

So having very little but the colour of the four walls to write about, I find myself writing about very little at all. Makes a change from cancer, chemo and marriage wobbles, I suppose. But it feels good to fill the box, press the button, remember there's a bigger world and that in the Big Scheme of Things all this means nothing, nothing at all.

Now, I've a date with a Benylin bottle. There are some compensations...

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Quiet House

The house is quiet. It is empty but for me, the cats and my thoughts.

The cats arrived this summer – a small, friendly tabby and a feisty three-legged tortoiseshell. I didn’t know she had only three legs when I fell in love with her, but that’s me all over, picking up the waif and stray before I know what I’ve let myself in for.

Earlier in the house today there was piano music. I let the notes soothe and rise. We acquired the piano this summer, too. The gift of a Quaker friend. An old German upright that’s been passed from family to family, wherever the wish arose, the only stipulation being that when we no longer want it we must pass it on ourselves, no charge.

My fingers move creakily across the keyboard. I think of the annual Open Day held in my teacher’s sitting-room; pupils gathered to play their best pieces to parents. I wore my white bell-sleeved lacy blouse and three-quarter length trousers. There was probably a ribbon in my hair. I was thin, studious, seven. A bit of a star pupil.

I play on, giving the Mozart a go, having better luck with the Haydn. It doesn’t come easily anymore, though I can imbue anything with feeling. I think of winter afternoons, then, in the playroom at Malts View Road. My sister Hope and I making up vast concert programmes for my mother to sit through, costumed from the dressing-box, accompanied by me on the piano.

Which song do you like best? we would demand after every show. Pick one! Pick one! You have to choose! I was triumphant when my mother chose Cockles and Mussels for me to sing again. I was a shocking romantic.

Then my piano teacher changed and I got one who smoked and I didn’t like him at all. Plus, I was thirteen and too many other changes were happening. I never took formal lessons again. Over the years I’ll sit down when there’s a piano and not too many people listening and let my fingers make the slow journey back to Clementi’s trills, or Satie’s stillness, but even the muscle memory of those dear favourites is beginning to fade.

So I’m cheering myself by learning some new pieces. I found a bundle of tattered sheet music tied up with string in the piano stool drawer. Most of it’s brown, and dry as parchment, but the notes are all there. My sight-reading is agonisingly slow, but just occasionally I perfect a little run of something that doesn’t sound at all bad. I round off every session with a very loud rendition of She, because it’s the only song my fingers can still remember from start to finish. When the silence is particularly odd, I sing along with it, giving my best impression of Charles Aznavour…

They are in Ireland. Planned for months. We didn’t know those months would fall now, when there’s so much to think about. Anna-mouse is being feted, at the absolute heart of her Irish family, which makes me happy. The Bim is getting another Celtic infusion, too, which he needs. I had plans for when they were gone, painting the house, sorting the garden, that sort of thing. Instead I find myself sitting for hours in my pyjamas, hugging a cup of coffee. The physical and mental toll of the last few weeks is being taken and I am, finally, allowing it to happen.

When I look back at the week I realise the two things of note I’ve achieved are learning how to play O Come All Ye Faithful for Christmas, in a vague but positive gesture towards having a happy one, and sorting my writing papers. That’s all.