I said goodbye to my piano today, only it wan’t the painful ‘adieu’ I’d been anticipating, but a bemused ‘au revoir’ that I never expected! Even so, I kissed it goodbye and promptly burst into tears as the van bore it away.
No-one makes the decision to get rid of a piano lightly! They’re huge pieces of furniture and often the source of much joy and many memories. Mine was certainly the latter. Although I can’t remember a life before it, I remember the breathless excitement of its arrival. Owning a piano was, for me, the equivalent of becoming a princess to many other little girls. It was all I’d ever wanted, forever. But they’re expensive items and, even at this distance, I remember feeling guilty over the £10 my parents had to shell out to get it for me. (It was a lot of money back then!)
Naturally it was second hand, if not third, fourth or fifth, maybe more – but that was just as well, as my three brothers and I probably didn’t treat it with the respect it deserved. It was just the right height to attach the Matchbox loop the loop track with which we would play for hours; it was a sturdy boundary for my younger brothers’ baby walkers and its top served as a natural repository of homework and coffee cups.
I can no more remember a time when I couldn’t read music than one where I couldn’t read books, but even the most dedicated musician gets fed up with practise once in a while. My mother would insist on those ‘reluctant’ days that I had to play for just 15 minutes, and she would set the timer on the big New World cooker in the kitchen. If, however, she got caught on the phone, I would creep behind the place where she was attached to the wall (explain that to your kids) and shave a few minutes off the alarm! But not so much that she’d notice. I can smile about that now because I never stopped playing and through my teenage years, my piano was my ‘go to’ place. If life was complicated, a bit of Bach or Mozart restored order; tumultuous – bring on the Beethoven; dreamy – Schubert or Mendelssohn. Later, the hits of the day were published as sheet music or in album compilations and I was able to play pieces like Billy Joel’s ‘Don’t go Changing’ or Elton John’s ‘Blue Eyes’ which increased my popularity no end! I say that but, to be fair, my piano was a very accurate measure of who was in the house. If either of my parents were in, the serving hatch between the kitchen and the dining room would fly open as soon as I began to play; but if my brothers were at home – the doors would slam shut! In my A level years, I was often playing more than eight hours a day.
When I left home to work further afield, I developed a routine where I would walk in wordlessly, touch my piano and then (for whatever reason I cannot explain) check the dishwasher!
It became clear to anyone that knew me that ‘home’ was only ever where my piano resided, and that without it I was restless, unhappy and temporary.
Deciding to let it go was one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever made and I spent many months considering and preparing for it. Where would it go? Who would, or even could love it as much as I had and do? To be fair, it was a bit of a ‘Friday night’ piano – a long way toward the back of the queue in the ‘pretty piano’ stakes. My mother always said it was ‘quite one of the ugliest things she’d ever seen!’ Harsh but potentially true.
I had hoped that it would go to another young pianist who would get the same kind of joy out of it as I did, or perhaps a Church group where it would sing out catchy pre school songs. But the longer my advertisement remained unanswered, the more I had to consider that my piano was facing the keyboard version of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang’s fiery furnace. Almost unbearable.
And then the call came – the call that proved to me yet again that my life’s course defaults to ‘quirky’!
‘Is the piano still available? I’ll take it’. I started to wax lyrical; to explain that it was Canadian, made in Ontario in 1838, how it, unusually, has three pedals; that it’s an upright grand and how raising the lid pushes the front open for a better sound. But became aware that I was sounding weird – the equivalent of a parent leaving their child with a babysitter for the first time.
‘It’s going to be a prop in our new escape room,’ explains my baby’s new mother. ‘A what?’ I ask, my head full of visions of small children trying get out of music practise.
‘Our Escape rooms on the Pier’ comes the explanation as if that makes it all clear. Nope – still baffled. What’s an escape room when it’s at home – other than a room from which children and animals are banished and I get limitless time to read books. That’s my idea of an escape room.
Dear reader, for the uninitiated, Escape is a team game for 2 – 6 people. You get locked in a room from which you have to escape within 60 minutes having completed a series of challenges, each one allowing you to address the next and eventually escape! A bit like a real life Cluedo.
And there are four on the pier right here in Skegness. Each is themed - there’s Prison Breakout, Wizardry and Escape the Seven Seas. There’s another, yet to open but which will be ready before the October half term and ready for Christmas Parties.
In a life dominated by technology, what a brilliant idea! One where a group of people have to work together to solve problems, face challenges and, as a team, achieve escape!
Never mind that my much loved piano will have a starring role! In the pirate room, thank you for asking. I’m feeling bad now that I dusted it down before it left, its cobwebs would surely have helped at its audition.
Hey, not many people can claim to be a parent to an ‘acting’ piano. To be fair, not many people claim to be a ‘parent’ to a piano at all, but I’m going to have to beg to differ. My piano is now 180 years old and it was facing an uncertain future. Now it is an ‘actor’; holding a starring role in one of the most modern attractions available! Proud? Of course I am! Not many parents can claim their offspring to be a successful thespiano! And better still, I can see it whenever want! I genuinely couldn’t be happier.