Looking back over our lives, it's remarkable how many silly inconsequentials linger in our memory.
I recall that at school I distinguished myself by having the highest non-attendence rate for three consecutive years, forging my mothers handwriting in a series of imaginative medical excuses for the sympathetic school principal, who came to think of me as a sickly child. At University I recall having the highest unpaid library fine for overdue books ever accrued in the entire history of the university; and later in life, working in the country, I have fond memories of mastering the art of rolling a cigarette while riding a galloping horse. Try it! It's not easy!
I clearly remember, too, the occasion when, as a reluctant fourteen-year-old I was struggling to master the piano under the tutelage of an unpleasant and disapproving teacher. One afternoon, during a lesson, a large earthquake rocked the town and sent my teacher cowering under a kitchen table. I played on, more terrified of her than concerned about the earthquake, while crockery smashed and furniture crashed all around us. A new relationship of grudging admiration was borne in that moment. This small triumph deserves a poem...
Mrs. Jewel and the Earthquake
When I was just a little lad
my Poppa said to me,
"It's time to make your old man proud,
a pianist you shall be."
He sent me off to music school
with tutor Mrs. Jewel.
The name was inappropriate,
in fact she was plain crewel.
Just one wrong note, she'd shout my name
and strike me with a cane.
My little digits went all blue
and caused a lot of pain.
I mastered preludes, rattled off
arpeggios and scales,
while Mrs. Jewel lashed and yelled,
"In my school no-one fails!"
But one day kind fate intervened;
we had a largish 'quake.
The house began to rock and pitch,
the earth began to shake.
A flight of ducks fell off the wall,
a fishbowl - it was shattered.
A pot plant crashed, a painting flew,
my tutor's nerves were battered.
She sprang up from the piano stool,
she lurched towards the door.
She staggered vainly round the room
then tumbled to the floor.
"O Lord !" she cried, "my hour has come."
She gave an awful wail.
Her eyes took on a ghastly hue,
her features went all pale.
And though all round, destruction reigned,
the scene I did ignore,
including Mrs Jewel, pale
and cowering on the floor.
For I, more terrified of she
than of this odd dilemma,
I played straight through the episode,
ignored the seismic tremor.
I dashed off triplets, semibreves,
it was my finest hour,
while Mrs Jewel upon the floor
could only wail and cower.
Each note was true, my fingers flew
across the tinkling keys.
I played and played and couldn't stop,
my father's hopes to please.
At last the 'quake it passed us by,
my tutor left the floor.
A new respect was in her eyes,
she staggered through the door.
"You'll never make the stage, my boy
Your father may be shattered,
but a brave young man you'll one day make."
I really felt quite flattered.
"While musically you mightn't be
the maestro we had thought,
the qualities you've just displayed
they can't be sold or bought."
With that she clasped me in her arms,
you wouldn't have believed.
She swept me from the piano stool,
a giant hug bequeathed.
And from that day the Big Quake came
to stop her reign of terror,
she made the simple heartfelt plea:
"From now on call me Sarah."
My old Dad quietly took the news
I wouldn't be a star.
He said, "I've still got faith in you,
I think you'll go quite far."
"I think a lawyer you could be,
this time you mustn't fail.
Let's see if you can make it there..."
but that's another tale.