Tuesday 18 March 1986

…Did measuring circles today, and finished Project folder, cover and index.
In swimming we did races and relays.
Had music lesson because my exam is tomorrow. Yikes…

So the great How We Used To Live project was finally over.

The last, most satisfying act in completing any primary school project was always the fastening together of cover, index and contents with treasury tags. This, I remember, seemed to give the entire thing a semblance of coherency, not to say mild professionalism.

The second-to-last, second-to-most satisfying act was always, naturally, making the contents page. Look! An entire list of stuff, all done by me! With page numbers and everything!

The exam I was doing tomorrow was my grade one in piano.

I had started weekly piano lessons the previous September, which involved me going to the house of a gnarled old woman on the other side of town every Wednesday and being talked down to for 30 minutes about fingering and contrary motion.

Her name was Mrs Whitehall. She was crotchety about my crotchets and quavering about my quavers. Here’s the kind of thing she made me learn:

Staving off defeat

She also smoked – not, as far as I can recall, during the lessons, but right before and directly afterwards, so her front room always stank.

Suffice to say I did not look forward to this weekly drubbing. I sort of learned to play the piano in spite of rather than because of anything she taught me. However my love for the instrument was enough to make me tolerate this noxious ritual. For the time being, at least.

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