30 Jul 2010

Hestia is perfectly Frank

from icanhazscheezburger.com
So, it's like this.  For the past few years I have harboured a desire to learn to play an instrument.  Having a child ensured that a whole load of (very) noisy toys tumbled into the house, including a recorder and a mouth organ.  While Sonshine whizzed about destroying planets with Lego space ships, I diligently tried to learn Yankee Doodle Dandy on the recorder.

After a while, well, after Tertarus nearly put his fist through the door in patiently-borne aural agony, I decided to leave my self-taught recorder skills to one side and embark upon Keyboard Lessons.

Fondly imagining myself rattling out a bit of Philip Glass in a couple of months, I was directed to Frank for lessons.  Or as I call him The Long-Suffering Frank.

For one hour on a Wednesday afternoon, Frank passes on his skills at the keyboard to me, his willing novice.

Frank is a former church organist.  I think it's a bit like being an alcoholic or a drug addict, you can never say that you are an EX church organist because, as sure as eggs is eggs, some bugger will keel over at a school Christmas party and the cry will go up: 'Can anyone here play She'll Be Coming Round The Mountain'?

Maybe I should describe him as a 'recovering' church organist.

When I arrive at his neat little flat with the sea view on a Wednesday afternoon, Frank is standing outside having a puff on an Embassy Tip.  Strangely, it's also the first thing he does after I leave, so make of that what you will....

It's a double keyboard organ that he's got, so my left hand is playing chords on the lower keyboard and my right hand on the upper keyboard, playing the tune. Every time I sit down and assume the position, my mind drifts to the naked organist on Monty Python, I have no idea why.

Frank sits off to my right and produces this week's music with a flourish.  There are usually 3 tunes - one fairly straightforward (to lull me into a false sense of security), one slightly more tricky (with jumps between the notes or sharps and flats) and one absolute BASTARD.

The first time I sat demurely in front of Frank, I was on my best behaviour.  This was the closest thing to religion I'd got in years, so I was somewhat wary of blurting out the odd expletive in front of a very nice man that I barely knew.  I have standards.

Now we are a year on and Frank has gotten himself a ruler.  Every time a frustrated little 'oh for FUCK's sake...sorry Frank....I'll need to start again,' slips out, he smacks me over the back of the hands with the ruler and usually mutters something about Elton John and Ronan Keating not behaving like this.

I usually smile smugly and say 'I think you'll find Elton John swears like a navvy, Frank.'  Up until now I've had no witty retort for the Saintly Ronan of Keating, but since he somewhat blotted his jotters by having it away with a backing singer, his usefulness as an icon for me to aspire to, for Frank, has dwindled to nothing.

We have covered all sorts of music - from Irish folk songs to Vera Lynn; from Boyzone to, well, Ronan Keating; from Abba to Orbison.  It doesn't matter a jot what the tempo is, I only do the one speed - and you could safely bring a hearse in to it.

My friend Malc listened to me playing one day and then asked me (not altogether seriously, not altogether jokingly) whether I could do a tape to play in his showroom.  His GRAVE HEADSTONES showroom.  Cheeky bugger.

I hugely enjoy my one hour with Frank and, despite the profanity, I think he enjoys having me.  We have a good laugh - he's not quite as saintly as I originally thought: he dabbles in the murky waters of indoor bowling and we discuss life, the universe and even lunar eclipses as I womanfully struggle through the latest piece of work.

Studying music is so wonderful, all joking aside, that I thoroughly recommend that everyone should find a music teacher and GET ON WITH IT.  When you are playing, you are using all your senses - to read the music, to listen to what you produce, to feel the keys beneath your fingers, and to smell your own fear as your gaze quickly takes in the magnitude of the dots and scribbles on the page that YOU are going to render into MUSIC.

It's like the most wonderful meditation.  That hour sucks up my entire concentration and I love it beyond words.

That's not to say that I'm particularly good at it.

On Wednesday I was delighted to discover that my middle tune was Bring Me Sunshine (better known as Eric and Ernie's theme tune that they sang every week on their show in the 70s). My fingers flew over the keys, because I knew the tune.

When I came home I rushed in to my own little borrowed keyboard that sits on top of Sonshine's art cupboard.  I'm like Pearl the singer, I need to stand up when I play my piano - it's too high to sit down and play at.

Tertarus was in the middle of sending a strongly worded e-mail to his company about something to do with a crane on his ship.

'Listen to this! Listen to this!'  I switched on the keyboard and set out the music.  Breathlessly I ran through the tune (with only a few mistakes, a couple of  'shit -that's not rights!'s a 'sorry' and one restart from the top.
I looked up hopefully. 'Well, whaddya think?  Good, eh?'

Tertarus was looking a bit uncomfortable. 'I hate it when you ask me hard questions like this,' he scowled.

'Oh come on, you must recognise it, SURELY!' I grinned.

'Was it by Boyzone?'  Given that most of my repetoire IS by Boyzone, I'm sure he thought this was a safe bet.

'No.  It was Eric and Ernie's theme tune'.

'Eric and Ernie who?'

I declined to comment further.  Who were Eric and Ernie?! What planet was he actually ON in the 1970s, I wondered.  These common people from the wrong side of town, maybe dad was right when he suggested that I think twice about marrying him.

His big hands plodded awkwardly over the keyboard of the computer.

'Do you want me to type that for you,' I offered, in a fit of magnanimity.

'No thanks.  You've got enough trouble with the keyboard in front of you, I'll be fine.'

He didn't even look round as the sofa pillow scudded off the back of his head.

But I could tell he was smiling.


  1. Oh how I miss Eric and Ernie and the Two Ronnies, Saturday nights used to be such fun when I was a kid! Great Post. I always wish I had learnt to play something other than a Penis, which is why my son has had Keyboard lessons at school for the last 4 years!

  2. I wasn't even born and I know what Eric and Ernie is!

    I think your mantoy needs a long day of watching old re-run to educated himself! :)

  3. LFIYF - I never bothered learning to play the penis. I find that it's an instrument that basically plays itself. Plus, you can't whip it out and give your maiden aunt a tune on it. Unless she is HUGELY short-sighted.

    LM - He *does* know. I think. I am working on the basis that it was his vague attempt at humour. If he really doesn't know, I shall pack my bags and head back to Juno. Who wants to live with a man who cannot understand a strangled/coughed 'Arsenal'?

    And don't get me started on The Two Ronnies. The 'Fork 'andles' sketch was an utter joy.

    Ali x

  4. There isn't any humour like that in the States. Thank god for Youtube, so I can sit in the ferry line on the way home and have a giggle to myslf. Either that or a few tunes on the penis, but that does tend to get the odd look.

  5. Legend - there's barely any humour like that here any more either. Although, I am very much enamoured with Armstrong and Miller's Hoodie Airmen though.

    I'd pay good money to see someone playing a couple of tunes on the penis on youtube. It could be a new business venture for someone, I'm sure ;-)

    Ali x

  6. Can you pop over to my blog please, there's a little something for you xx


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