The other day I passed a charity shop with a guitar in the window but I resisted a sudden impulse to go in and buy it.  If, I decided, the guitar was still there in two days’ time I would give in to temptation.  It wasn’t so I am still guitar less.

Probably a good thing since I don’t read music and have never played a musical instrument.  Well, that’s not quite true; when I was eleven my parents acquired an upright piano and arranged for me to have piano lessons.  Not, as things turned out, a sensible investment.

My piano teacher was a very large lady called Miss Major.  After the Second World War, with food shortages and rationing, it was rare to encounter fat people.  However, Miss Major bucked the trend – she was very fat.  

But that’s not all; Miss Major also reeked of stale sweat.

During my lessons Miss Major I had to share a piano stool designed to take two ordinarily sized people. Since I was only eleven I wasn’t yet an ordinarily sized person but Miss Major was so large that her bum absorbed most of the piano stool.  I used to perch on the edge trying not to be smothered by Miss Major’s generous, wobbly flesh and doing my best to take shallow breaths to minimise the disgusting smell.

Not surprisingly, my piano playing suffered and I started to invent excuses to skip lessons.  One of the most effective was to pretend that the chain on my bicycle had broken on my way to Miss Major’s house.  I used to arrive with only ten minutes of lesson time left with my fingers black with oil. By the time I had washed my hands Miss Major’s next hapless pupil would have arrived and I scarpered. 

For some reason I never told my parents about my problems with Miss Major and so they went on paying for my lessons whilst wondering about the lack of progress.

Another problem was my parents’ upright piano was in the front room which for most of the year was unacceptably cold.  The room faced north and the coal fire, the only source of warmth, was only lit at Christmas.  So, being sent to the front room to practise my scales was an unpleasant experience to be avoided and/or curtailed.

The combination of a large, smelly piano teacher and a freezing front room amounted to aversion therapy (though at the time I did not know what this meant). 

Excuses, excuses.       

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