No-one ever says that they regretted learning to play the piano. Even so, few admit to having enjoyed piano lessons, unless they were exceptionally gifted.
I was certainly no child prodigy. In fact, all our family was spectacularly lacking in any glimmer of musical talent. However, we had somehow acquired a piano – a rather inferior upright, but a serviceable instrument nonetheless. It was rumoured that my parents inherited it from great-uncle Freddie because they were the only relatives with a sufficiently large sitting room.
As a young child, my favourite trick was to hammer out God Save the Queen or Chopsticks as forcefully as possible, at times when I know it would cause maximum annoyance. Usually, it was when my mother was engrossed in a novel, or my father had just settled in front of the television after a long day, or my older sister was trying to concentrate on her homework. The more they shouted at me to stop, the more percussively I would attack the keys, running off as soon as I heard footsteps stamping down the hall.
I remember one hot sunny afternoon when I was eight. I had promised Jamie Watts that I would go round to his house after school for some cricket practice. When my mother came to collect me, instead of heading straight home, she announced that I was being taken to a piano lesson.
Even today, I can remember the churning sensation in my stomach. I had heard tales from wretched classmates about stentorian teachers making them learn scales, shouting at them for the slightest mistake, and making them practice every night. My teacher, Miss Thomas, exceeded my worst imaginings in every respect. I somehow struggled through a year of lessons, progressing perhaps half way to Grade One. Eventually, I pleaded with my mother to stop the torment, to which she agreed on condition that I would never again use the piano in mischief. It was a deal that was immediately struck.
That was over fifty years ago. As I have got older, hardly a week has gone by when I haven’t regretted giving up the piano. If only I had persisted, how I might have enjoyed leading sing-songs or just making music for my own pleasure.
I am not one to dwell on missed opportunities. Retirement is a time to embark on fresh ventures, not to laze around doing nothing. The piano has stood in our study, forlornly, ever since my mother’s death. To my surprise, the tuner was able to breathe new life into it. There is a card in the newsagent’s window which reads ‘Rosie Betts, piano teacher – adult learners a speciality’. I am eagerly awaiting her first visit.