Part 13 – Ernest & Standing Tall


I play the piano! I’ve remembered something: I play the piano. Not well. I can’t whip off a version of Claire De Lune but I do tinkle. Chords mostly but I can play.
In fact it’s only been a recent thing, I only started learning in the last year. I’ve even written songs. None spring to mind at the moment but I know I’ve written songs.
So over the last year a little love affair has blossomed. I love my piano. Ernest. He’s even got a name. Yes, that’s right, it’s coming back to me now. I’ve written a song about him. Now I do remember that. How do the opening lines go?

My piano is a Hemmingway
But I decided to give him a first name
It’s pretty obvious
You might have guessed
My piano’s called Ernest
And no the irony’s not lost on me
So I’ll sing you a song

That’s it! Pretty cheesy but you should hear it with the music. It’s just two chords I think. Really strong optimistic ones.
Ernest. My beloved Ernest. And the memory slowly chugs up to speed.
Metro-boulot-dodo were off to do a big headphone installation piece somewhere when an opportunity arose and I jumped on it.
The set has pianos in it. It’s a story of a love affair between our heroin and a concert pianist.
Anyway, we were loading up the (hollow) instruments and the guy who drives our Luton said, “Hey, I’ve got a piano I’m trying to get rid off.” And I said, quite out of the blue, “I’ll take it!”
That was a shock to our moving crew and to me, I can tell you. A piano. I’ve never even had the odd lesson. I can’t even play any other instrument. A piano? Are you sure?
I got it for nothing. A whole piano. I think I got it with Ruth in mind. She’s a beautiful player. I guess I figured she could teach me. And she did. She just showed me the ropes really and then it was all a matter of twiddling. But we spent many a happy hour sitting at that piano.
The piano hours, just me and her. I wrote my songs for her. I think I must have written most of my songs for her. I just wanted to impress her.
For a moment I’m lost. Thinking about her. Dylan said, “…no man has ever done anything that a woman either hasn’t allowed him to do or encouraged him to do.” And with me, at least, that’s really true. I always wrote my songs with her in mind. She was always the first person to hear a new song. Not love songs or anything (well, there was one … more of that later) but tunes and words I hoped would move her. Her acceptance and enthusiasm was all I craved.
I picked it up pretty damn quickly. And what with being a writer, the lyrics were the first thing to come. Musically my songs were very simple, but they could hold an emotional wallop. They were beautiful. I remember that. They were beautiful. At least to me. And to her.
I remember Ruth’s face just after I played her a new song. Her pupils all soft and large and her lips slightly open as if in a gasp.
She used to encourage me. She liked my songs. She was always full of surprised praise (as if shocked by this new talent). She would say things like ‘Crikey, that’s good’.
And that face.
So open and so warm.
It’s a lovely moment, watching your song hold someone.
I used to live for that face.
Her face.
I hope she gets home from her travels soon. She might have to teach me the piano all over again.
For a moment I just stare into my memories (what little remain) but then I blink, shake my head and set to the matter at hand.
“Trudy,” she’s doing the rounds with her little clipboard. “There’s got to be a piano in the hospital right?”
“Erm,” she blinks at this strange request. “I don’t think so.”
“Oh right, balls.” Why doesn’t the hospital have a piano? It should be like rats. At any given time you should never be more than two metres from a piano. What happened to the good old days when they were everywhere?
If I become prime minister that’s the first thing I’ll do. Let’s get the piano nice and ubiquitous again.
On the other hand, maybe it’s for the best. I dread to think what my piano playing is like at the moment. It would probably be quite upsetting. Or maybe I would just find it funny. Probably the latter.
Anyway, maybe it’s for the best.
Why? Why is it for the best?
Because there’s something else. Something I can’t quite put my finger on at the moment.
Songs, I used to write songs….

Standing Tall

Now, a walking stick would be cool. A wooden one with one of those nice stylish handles. I could even work with crutches.
But a Zimmer frame!
Well, I suppose I came off the pensioner friendly food a while ago (nice and smooth, no chewy bits to get caught in your dentures) and now I’m making my way on to a Zimmer. I feel like I’m working backwards, returning from the grave and therefore slowly tackling everything the wrong way round. I make it sound odd but that’s just recovery I guess. We all started proper fucked up and are making are way to not proper fucked upness. And that’s being old I suppose. You’re fucked up then you’re proper fucked up and then you’re dead. Cheery little thought. I could see that on a mug.
This has been a bit of a taster of being really old. So that’s what being utterly helpless and broken is like. In stark contrast to actually being old I, however, get this really cool chance to claim it all back.
And as I rise to my Zimmer (with the help of Sarat) that is how it feels. Empowering. An achievement. Fuck yeah!
I make my way slowly down the corridor as Sarat, Sally, Lisa, Timmea and Nickon all look on. I go as far as they have dared me and slowly turn, puffing.
Nickon beams, raises her hands and begins a round of applause. This feels great. I bow ever so slightly.
I’m really thrilled (I’ve always loved applause) because not only do I feel like a gold medallist there is another strange new feeling creeping in. I’ve never experienced this before.
“I feel …” I pant. “I feel … tall!”
They all laugh and I gaze around the ward with this whole new perspective. I AM DAVE THE TINY TALL ZIMMER MAN! LOOK AT MY WORKS YE MIGHTY AND DESPAIR!!!
I’ll say this for Rehab, just occasionally it does throw these unique little experiences your way. First the post catheter weegasm and now this. I feel tall! I never thought I’d be able to say that. Not without joining a Pigme tribe or getting a rack.
Woo hoo! Look at me!
I slowly make my way back to the nurses’ station.
“The Poster Boy for the Rehab Ward!” Nickon says again and pats me on the shoulder. I look around, a little circle of smiling faces.
Then I see another familiar face.
Bev (the swallow lady) is just coming out of my bay. She has been working with Richard, helping him get the hang of porridge. I am delighted to see her but I am also delighted to see that she is a very short lady. She is so short she is even shorter than me.
I lean in with my crutches and do my best to tower over her.
“Alright titch!” I gloat.
She smiles, shrugs and addresses the nurses.
“He was David,” She says rolling her eyes, “now he’s Goliath!”.
“I could get used to this!” I beam. “This is fun!”
Now … where’s Stuart Little?

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