Monthly Archives: April 2012

the year of playing the piano – pay off

Lovely readers, if you’re still there. Today was remarkable only in that something is happening to my memory. Perhaps it won’t last, but playing the piano every day and forcing myself also to memorise the scores is actually paying off. I don’t mean I can remember the shopping, or what day it is: there are lists and diaries for that kind of junk. Much more importantly, I can remember some Brahms, Schubert, Debussy and above all Bach. I even remembered some Chopin and some Sinding. As you can tell, I got bored with other stuff (writing, trying to work out how Scottish Power’s Unfi contraption works, looking for nice 2nd hand china) and reverted to the piano. One of the greatest advantages of taking it up quasi-seriously is that pleasure counts as productive work. Of course it isn’t always pleasure. Sometimes I have to force myself to sit on that long black piano stool and face the mountain that is the Goldberg. But for the last few hours the pleasure has been, well, pleasurable. Result? It’s Sunday night and I feel quite cheerful. If you don’t feel so cheerful, order a piano at once. Your neighbours may regret it, but you never will.

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the year of playing the piano – mind the gap

Did something unwise. Inspected Variation 5. Is it nearly the hardest? May well be, but better exercise for the arms than the gym. Then watched Dominic Sandbrook’s 1970s. Glory be. I was at boarding school over the three day week and the thing I remember most vividly was losing a bracelet I’d been given possibly for a
birthday. Recently, I asked my father if he remembered anything particular. After a pause, he said ‘Not really. Did anything happen?’. I think perhaps the 1970s didn’t arrive in north east Lancashire until the 1980s, if you know what I mean. At home, in some respects, they never arrived at all, and now we can see they weren’t up to much, perhaps they can be given a miss altogether.

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the year of playing the piano – what day is it, I wonder

No idea how long I’ve been practising the piano consistently but by George, a bit of a payoff. Nice readers will remember my paralysis without the silencer. It’s been a long affliction, partly because I dread annoying the neighbours and partly because the world can then hear how hopeless I am. With the silencer on, neither is possible. So today I’ve done an hour before I realise – the silencer isn’t on! The headphones are lying on the floor. I spot them, I keep going, and the result is not paralysis but just, well, normal. I mean I probably am annoying the neighbours (who’ll be too nice to tell me) and I do sound pretty hopeless (though not as hopeless as heretofore – fond of that word) but nevertheless, I don’t want to stop. So I just keeping going, right to the end (almost – I put the silencer on for endless repetition of some phrases of Variation 4). But an hour, sans silencer, is, to me, a kind of miracle. Probably won’t last, but one miracle is quite enough, possibly for a lifetime.

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the year of playing the piano – backwards Christian soldiers

I’m dressed for winter: many many vests, thick wool over the top, mittens for practice. Husband says ‘Crikey! Look at you!’ I say ‘It’s cold.’ He says ‘Why not turn the heating on?’ I say ‘It’s April.’ He says ‘And?’ I say ‘We don’t have the heating on in April.’ He says ‘When do we have the heating on?’ I say ‘When it’s cold.’ He gives me a look. I think it may be triumph. But I don’t put the heating on, because it’s April, and we don’t have the heating on in April.

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the year of playing the piano – did it

For those – nobody, really, but never mind, I’ll just keep going – for those wondering if I ever did press that alarming online payment button, there is news. I did, but I didn’t do it alone. The husband had to help, reading out numbers once, twice, thrice, then waiting whilst I read them again thrice, twice, once. Oh, we went round the houses. It would have been quicker to have walked to the payee and dumped a sack of pound notes on the floor. Will I be better next time? Not a chance.

Goldberg Variation 4 is deceptive. I’m finding it quite hard, since sometimes, as also happens in other variations, what appears to be written for the left hand must be played by the right. This is a neat Bachian trick – well not a trick exactly. He had higher things in mind than the mechanics of fingering and stretch. You must also take care to keep the four individual strands separate. No block chord sounds allowed. I’m working hard at this and however hard it is, it’s a damned sight easier than punching that beastly button. Roll on Variation 5 – no, just joking … have you actually seen Variation 5? That and the bank button may finish me off in time.

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the year of playing the piano – tempus fugit

Who decreed that weekend should be only two days long? Someone with no imagination. You need one day to wind down and do chores,
and two days to nourish the inner and outer self. Sunday is nearly over and I’ve not done nearly enough nourishing. But I have done my practice, some bookery, a bit of chatting with husband and even a little partying. Not a bad haul. Just want more.

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the year of playing the piano – scrubbers

If Saturdays start well, they usually continue well. Mine started with cleaning, always therapeutic. Cleaning wasn’t quite enough, so I mowed the grass. Then I felt ready to tackle the book. Some quite decent tackling was done. I only scrubbed about half the stuff I wrote. I spend too much time cleaning my text, but I’ve developed a horror of superfluous words and can’t wait to the end of the page, let alone the end of the first draft, to deploy the delete button. I should really be a char. I’d be pretty darned good.

Practice was Goldberg 3 and 4, hands separately and together, score closely followed. Then Schubert and Debussy. Impromptu 4 (D899) was a little too impromptu and Clair de Lune a little too luny. Still, I played a mean set of scales. Not a superfluous note. A good clean Saturday. Now I’m going to a party.

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the year of playing the piano – admissions

Well I never. I thought ‘pinterest’ was a site dedicated to things that might have interested Harold Pinter. Turns out it’s some kind of webbery which can really interest no-one. Ditto this ‘instagram’ thing. I thought it was a lovely revival of the telegram, though of course that could never be. And it wasn’t. One thing very usefully discovered: if you persist in webbery ignorance for long enough, the new big thing’s time passes and you never have to know. This is a relief.

A few posts ago, I wrote of being unable to press the ‘confirm’ button on a transaction with the bank. I still haven’t pressed it. I charge to the button stage every day, and balk at the last. I’d be a useless racehorse. Today, I did manage to buy two train tickets online. It only took me an hour and two muck sweats. I’ve got buttonphobia. Clearly, the cure is to press more buttons but I’m off to press the piano keys instead. An interesting (to me) fact: as I become more fearful of the computer keys, I become less fearful of playing sans silencer (see earlier posts). One key at the expense of another. It’s a strained metaphor (is it even a metaphor) but Variation 7 calls and I’m in just the mood to answer. Hey ho and off we go.

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the year of playing the piano – the joy of lunch

A. A. Gill wrote recently of the joy of lunch. I had lunch today with a friend of long standing, whom I hardly ever see. And it was joyful indeed. So joyful that we may have rather shocked our restaurant neighbours with the tumbling of catch-up stories, current furies, past excitements, possible disasters, future plans, all half-told in that way you do when time presses and you keep starting one thing and getting waylaid by another. It’s always a gamble, seeing old friends. I mean, there’s no guarantee you’re going to like them any more. When you reach 50, the realisation sneaks up on you that there are some friends you don’t actually like and perhaps, oh dear, never did. Doesn’t stop you being friends, of course. Habit keeps most things going. No habit today. I like my lunch companion just as much as ever, and with that renewed vigour only a joyful lunch can spark. If your lunch wasn’t joyful, grab a joyful one soon. They don’t do much for the figure, but by gum they’re good for the soul.

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the year of playing the piano – a day of two halves

I’m in need of the piano today as I have so many things to do, I don’t know where to start. The Goldberg will tell me. After practice, I usually feel calmer, even if every note’s a howler. When I’m calm, I make lists. When I have a list, I feel better. Today began with a nice thing. In the Tesco carpark, I found a handbag attached to a trolley, owner long gone. I handed the bag in and had a lovely call from one happy woman, reunited with her worldly goods, and wishing me a flourishing future. I didn’t find it hard to hand in the bag, so my small righteous glow was hardly earned. Now I’m doing something much harder. I’m setting up a new online payment. I have all the details. I’ve set these things up before. But I’m completely paranoid about getting the details wrong, and since it’s for a tidy sum, I find myself unable to press the ‘confirm’ button. So here I am, hovering over a button. I’ll press it now. No, still haven’t done it. If you could see me, you’d laugh. Thank goodness you can’t.

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