When our conductor, the Redoubtable Muriel, sat down at the piano this morning to lead our Singing for Pleasure choir through our vocal exercises, she
quickly discovered that not all the keys were producing a sound. We hummed along to ourselves while she and our pianist, Morag, investigated the interior of the piano.
To do this they first had to remove five spider plants, in varying stages of spiderliness, from the top of the instrument and place them carefully on the floor. Next they opened the lid of the piano and peered inside. We all stopped humming, holding
our breath as we were. Out of the piano, with a flourish, they withdrew a plastic carrier bag and an empty crisp packet. Now who could have hidden them therein and with what intent? As I said, I suspected sabotage.
As a child, I once hid several slices of ham in our piano in a bid to head off a maternal threat that I would not be allowed to leave the table until I had finished off my hated ham sandwich.
With the ham duly disposed of, I was able to eat the remaining bread and butter without any trouble at all. When I related this story to grandchildren Jack and Hazel quite recently they thought it was hilariously funny but wanted to know what happened to the
ham? I had to confess that I had spent many a worried night, lying in my bed and pondering on its fate, wondering, for example, if it would start to smell, or attract mice or (rather like the plastic bag and empty crisp packet) prevent the playing of my father’s
favourite tunes. Time has drawn its silent veil over What Happened Next though I suspect if my crime had been discovered I would surely have remembered the consequences.
It couldn’t have been a sudden impulse to secrete the empty crisp packet and plastic carrier bag in the community centre piano. For a start, whoever it was would have had to deal with the spider plants before they could lift the lid. It
was difficult to see that this could have been the work of the other main users of the hall – the Montessori playgroup. I know Montessori teaches self-expression and all that – but I have seen the littl’uns lining up on their way out to the
playground and none of them could possibly have reached the top of the piano, even if they had managed to clamber up on the piano stool.
It would take
more than an empty crisp packet and a plastic carrier bag to daunt the Redoubtable Muriel who, having removed the unjust impediments to our musical progress, proceeded to take us through our paces at a rapid rate. Possibly in response to the sunshine
and showers weather, her song list for today consisted of a whole range of compositions about smiling. So we sang a marching song about smiling as we sing (Muriel is always exhorting us to look up from our song books and smile as we sing, she hates it when
we bury our noses in our files as we struggle to decipher thr words) followed by “When Irish Eyes are Smiling” and Blue Skies. “Blue skies, smiling at me, Nothing but blue skies do I see,” we sang, happily, to an accompanying rumble
of thunder outside.
The men were in a Bit of Trouble with Muriel today on account of the fact that they had set out their chairs in a straight line against
the wall, leaving a clear gap between them and the alto section (where I sit.) Muriel said that this (i) set them apart from the rest of the choir which was Not A Good Thing and (ii) meant they were just out of her line of sight as she stood on her podium. I
don't believe this was entirely accidental. The fellas paid not the slightest attention to her complaints because they know very well that they are her favourites. She will come round, you could almost hear them telling each other.
On Monday last, Muriel was invited to take tea with the Mayor of Brighton and Hove to mark her 90th birthday and many years’ service to music. Our U3A Chairman and choir convenor, Myra, was delighted
to be asked to accompany her on this auspicious occasion. She was less happy when the Mayor, obviously confusing his Myras and his Muriels, shook her warmly by the hand and said he hoped the next 90 years would be just as happy. “I’m not
that old!” she told him, frostily. I know exactly the tone of voice she will have used – she will have pulverised the poor man.
He must surely have
wished that the Blue Skies would fall on him...