I can remember numbers, text, where I’ve put things but I’ve always found memorising music very difficult. Even as a child I always played from music, even in concerts. It’s not my age – though I am 83 – it was the same when I was young. The Sarabande from the Handel suite is easy enough but I’d have to make a real effort to get it by heart. One piece stuck, though, Satie’s Gymnopoedie No 1. I didn’t try to learn it. it was just there.
I am trying to memorise Grieg’s Album Leaf. It’s quite a simple piece – two repeated sections, one with the melody in the right hand and one with the melody in the left. I think I’ve managed the first part, but it’s been hard work. What’s so silly, is that I’ve always had trouble not remembering things, especially numbers.
I learned to play in 1942 when I was evacuated to Dawlish. My first teacher was a wonderful man, the organist at a local church.
From my memoir Woman in a White Coat I knocked on the door of the room where the piano had been delivered the week before. The smell of cigarettes and mothballs greeted me as I pushed open the door. A short bald-headed man, wearing a rumpled dark grey pin-striped suit, stood by the piano. His waistcoat was tightly stretched across his paunch, a silver watch chain hanging between the pockets. His steel‑rimmed glasses were perched on the end of his nose and held together with sticky tape. On the top of his forehead, he had a round swelling, about the size of a plum. It was hard not to stare at it. ‘Come in. Come in. You must be Abby Waterman.’ He flicked open his pocket watch. ‘Right on time, my dear. I’m Geoffrey Lawson, the organist at St Stephen’s.’ He rested his cigarette carefully on the edge of the piano lid and held out a stubby hand for me to shake. Continue reading Memorising piano music→
May 8th 2015. It was a super Riviera Travel tour with an excellent well-informed courier. Hadn’t realised how many times the island changed hands. Took the coach to the foot of Mount Etna but my dodgy hip wouldn’t let me do much climbing. Great crescent of tourist shops but only bought a packet of cashew nuts.
1. When I was 2½ my mother took my dummy away. i can remember being pushed in a heavy metal pushchair in Petticoat Lane. My dummy was always tied with a ribbon to a safety pin in my coat or dress and it was gone. I was desolate.
2. A fellow student said he’d ask me to marry him if I’d promise to say No. He said it was to be sure at least one person would ask. I was 18 at the time!!
3. Age 14, being caught without an underground ticket and saying I’d got on later than I did. I had visions of police and having to go to court but luckily the ticket inspector took pity on me and let me go. I never ever did it again. My mother would never have forgiven me for ‘showing her up’.
Stephanie liked my Synopsis and says she’s ready to send it out to Agents. No doubt months of waiting to come. Feel rather guilty at being abrupt with an agent who hadn’t replied to a previous submission after 8 weeks. Now realise it’s the norm to have to wait 2 or 3 months.
In 1939 I was evacuated to Littleport (2 billets) in Cambridgeshire and then to Ely, and in 1942 to Dawlish in South Devon.
Excerpt from my memoir Woman in a White Coat ‘Operation Pied Piper’, the plan for the evacuation of children from areas likely to be bombed, was in place long before WW2 was declared. People in safe areas with spare bedrooms were urged to take in evacuees. They would be paid 10/6d for the first child and 8/6d for subsequent children. Nearly a million children were evacuated on Friday September 1st 1939. Trains were taken over, and London railway stations were packed with children.
Parents had been given a list of clothing to pack. Girls needed 1 spare vest, 1 pair of knickers, 1 petticoat, 1 slip, 1 blouse, 1 cardigan, a coat or Mackintosh, nightwear, a comb, towel, soap, face-cloth, boots or shoes and plimsolls. We were also to take food for the train journey: sandwiches, packets of nuts and seedless raisins, dry biscuits, barley sugar, an apple and an orange.
I was seven, nearly eight and my sister, Hannah, was thirteen. Hannah hadn’t yet started at her grammar school, so she came with me to my school. She carried the cardboard suitcase we shared. Our gas masks in their square brown boxes hung on a tape around our necks, and we had labels tied through our buttonholes with our name and evacuee number printed in large letters. Our teachers marched us to Liverpool Street station and onto the train to Littleport. Some mothers and a few fathers came to the school with their children. Hannah and I were alone.
‘I don’t need to go with you,’ my mother said. ‘You’re old enough to go on your own. I’ve put a stamped and addressed postcard in your case. Mind you send me your address as soon as you’re settled.’
No kiss goodbye. Nothing.
One of Colin Fulcher’s beautiful designs for the bags of our John Dobbie toyshop.
I tried Julia Cameron’s Morning Pages so many times when I was writing Woman in a White Coat but always gave up after a few days. Writing a blog is different. it’s addictive. I wake in the night thinking of things to put in next day. I wake early, make myself a cup of coffee in my fancy Eileen Bodum cafetière and make my preparations for dinner – if it’s my turn to cook. If there’s less cooking to do in the evening I find I have more appetite for an evening meal I’ve cooked myself. I turn on my computer, look at my emails, check my account and with great pleasure click on my blog. Not a chore. A pleasure!!
Monday Bank Holiday. I love cooking – find it really relaxing. I cook Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday and Joshua cooks the other days. it’s not as unfair as it sound because we quite often eat out on Saturday night. .Our son, Simon, is coming to dinner tomorrow and will stay the night. Our main course will be pastitsada – a Greek stew with tomatoes, cloves and cinnamon. The recipe used lamb but i find it a bit strong and will use beef with new potatoes and broccoli. As a desert i will make an easy favourite plum tray bake. Both Waitrose recipes that always work – not like some of the recipes in newspapers!