If I only had time for Ailsa’s theme.

Ailsa of ‘Where’s my back pack’ fame, has given us a new travel theme.  Time is something I’m seriously short of at the moment. Since I got back to my home in South Africa, after six months away, I seem to have been rushing madly to get things done. One of the most important things was driving up to see my dear mom and have lunch with her yesterday. She was overjoyed to see me of course, and we had a lot of hugs, kisses and news to catch up on. :)

Some of you may know that I play the piano, and I phoned the local mall to say that I was back. The pianist who was standing in for me, hasn’t played for quite a while and they have no-one at the moment, so off I go in a few minutes to entertain the Sunday shoppers for two hours. This necessitated a bit of practice time this morning, which went quite well. It’s a bit like riding a bicycle; you never forget, and as I sat down, I was pleasantly surprised to find that it sounded not too bad, so I’m quite confident to go and practise some more on the general public.  ;)

I thought I’d show you our ancient clock which was presented to hubby’s grandfather in 1894. It was for his service as a Methodist minister at a church in Birmingham, England. The case is made of slate, and a clock maker told us that the mechanism is much older than 1894, so we have a real antique. It has a lovely chime too, and keeps very good time.

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Here is a close-up of the metal plaque on the front. The family has no idea where the ‘pair of bronzes’ went to, but my father-in-law thought that they were maybe made of pewter, not bronze, and just fell apart over the years.

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So this is our family heirloom, which weighs about 20 kgs, and was brought over from Ireland in our hand luggage. I well remember hubby carrying this and trying to make out that it weighed almost nothing, so that it wouldn’t have to go as checked baggage. ;)

Now I’m rushing off to do my piano stint. I think I’ll include those lovely old songs, Jim Croce’s “Time in a Bottle” and  “As Time Goes By,” from Casablanca, in keeping with the theme.

To see more interpretations of Ailsa’s theme, just click here.

Can you believe I was once a toad?

I was wondering the other evening, how I ever managed to pluck up the courage to play the piano in public. As a child, when mom’s friends came to visit, and she wanted me to perform my simple little pieces for them, I was frozen with fear. She insisted however, and I obliged, but I certainly didn’t enjoy it.

Now acting was a different kettle of fish altogether. My earliest memory of being in a school production of sorts was when I was very young, maybe only eight. Our class put on a short play, in which we all had to dress up as children from different countries. We could choose which country, and as my Mom possessed a beautiful blue silk dressing gown with a silver dragon embroidered all the way down the back, I went as a Chinese person. My hair was tightly braided in a long plait, but being very blonde, I guess I didn’t look very Chinese. The only line I had to say was, “Velly nice party,” which I had practised ad infinitum. Mom, having lived in Hong Kong for a few years, taught me how to say it with a Chinese accent. :) I was in my element when the parents and teachers applauded at the end.

My real “stage debut” came when in my last year at junior school, we did a production of “Toad of Toad Hall,” a play adapted from A.A. Milne’s “The Wind in the Willows.” I was Toad, the wealthiest character, and owner of Toad Hall. Although good-natured, Toad is impulsive and conceited, and is eventually imprisoned for theft, dangerous driving and impertinence to the rural police. He gets a twenty year jail sentence for stealing a car, and escapes disguised as a washerwoman. I had a quick change in the wings and donned an over-sized flowery dress with a lace cap on top of my toad head. Maybe this is where my love of beautiful cars, and my expertise as a laundry lady and ironer of note, stem from, although I do draw the line at wearing flowery dresses and lace caps. :)

I can vividly remember my costume for the play. A pair of tights, a blouse, and very large bloomers, all dyed a brilliant emerald-green, in a large saucepan on mom’s hob. The bloomers were stuffed with newspaper, and I had a cushion tucked under my blouse and into the waistband of the tights, which as you can imagine, was extremely uncomfortable. To top this creation, was a huge papier-mâché toad’s head, which fitted non too neatly over mine. It had holes for my eyes and also for my mouth, and was most cumbersome and difficult to keep straight, so I spent most of the play pulling and pushing it into position. The play was presented in the church hall over the main road from the school, and on the day, our teacher got the lollipop stick, and stopped the traffic whilst I waddled across in all my greenery. I bet those motorists had a giggle, but I was well disguised and too intent on not losing my head, to notice. I loved every uncomfortable minute of the performance.

This starring role did whet my appetite for the stage, and at Grammar school, where a production of Gilbert & Sullivan was a yearly event, I was an eager member of the chorus, along with my sister who went on to study singing and ended up in the D’Oyly Carte Opera Company. I think we just loved dressing up in those old-fashioned long dresses, and singing our hearts out. It was so much fun, and I especially enjoyed the applause and the curtain calls. Here is an ancient Polaroid photo of me in “Trial by Jury.” I am the 5th from the right in the front.

The next school play I took part in, was when my son was at junior school. The parents put on a 1949 one-act play called “The Crimson Coconut” by Ian Hay. I was a blonde Russian spy and the only line I can remember having to say was, “Eet iss ze crimzon coconut.” The rest of the time, I just had to stand around looking blonde and mysterious. I got shot at the end of the play, and of course had to fall down. Never having been taught how to die painlessly, I would thump down on the wooden stage, always landing on my left hip bone. Thinking back, I’m wondering if that’s why, a year later when I had a genuine fall and landed on the sharp corner of a concrete kerb, my femur snapped. Thankfully it healed with no lasting effects. I think that sometimes participating in school productions can have a profound influence on the rest of your life. For example, I saw when looking at my school site on Google, that one of the guys who sang in the Gilbert & Sullivan with me, went on to become an internationally acclaimed operatic bass singer, and was awarded the CBE. My sister also sang with The D’Oyly Carte Opera and did TV and stage work in England.

I ended up as a school singing teacher, giving several ‘performances’ a day in front of my young captive audience. This also gave me the courage to play piano in public at various venues around Johannesburg,  and to play the church organ for many weddings and funerals. You only get one shot at weddings and funerals, so you have to get it right the first time. :)  I’m sure that being encouraged to perform in front of others at school, really helps to build a child’s confidence. What school experiences have influenced your life as an adult?

I hope my stories have given you a few smiles. Wishing you all a great weekend.

Smile and wave at the pianist.

Today being Wednesday, I’ll be leaving shortly to play piano for a couple of hours at our local mall. Last Sunday I was also there, filling in for the Sunday pianist who helped me out whilst I was away with my family in Johannesburg. Unlike the Wednesday crowd, which are mostly ‘Platinum Pensioners’, as our mall management has seen fit to label every shopper over fifty-five, Sunday is very different, with many more younger folk with their families out for a weekend shopping spree and maybe a meal at one of the restaurants here.

Last Sunday there was a fair on, with lots of stalls displaying wares from the shops in the centre, plus a few antique stalls. The atmosphere was very festive, and the piano had been moved to make way for a wedding dress display. I was now right next to a massage set-up, with young Indian ladies offering passers-by a free neck and shoulder massage. I love people-watching, and was fascinated to see how many men took advantage of this.

So there I sat, amid all the bustle and noise, trying to concentrate on my playing whilst watching and smiling at all the shoppers who came past. I had just started playing that lovely Michel Legrand song, “How do you keep the music playing?” (which as it turned out was very apt), when I was startled by a six-foot-plus guy in a ‘penguin suit’ who stationed himself in front of the piano, and proceeded to conduct me right through the song until the very last chord. Now, you might think that this should have helped me to keep in time with the rhythm,  but I was actually laughing so much that I almost fell off my seat. I had to keep going though, as any self-respecting musician would do, with such a stern-looking conductor waving his arms around in front of them.

When I’d finished, I whipped out my iPhone and insisted that he owed me a photograph. He obligingly posed for me,  before waddling off to terrorise a few more people. :D

I guess today will be much more tame, with probably just a few ‘smiles and waves’ from platinum-haired pensioners, rather than penguins. :) Wishing you all a great day.

They’re on their way.

Some of you may who follow me, will know that my son and little granddaughter Sienna are coming to visit very soon. I’m so excited to see them again. When I woke up this morning, there was this photo on Facebook.

There’s my little angel looking so excited to be travelling all this way with her dad. They were stopping off in Paris for the day and catching the night flight to Johannesburg and then on to Cape Town, where they will stay with friends before flying to Durban on Monday. I think their body clocks will be all over the place, as they only got back to New York on Sunday after attending a family wedding in Hawaii. At least they can get over their jet lag in Cape Town, and should be back to normal by the time they get here.

Today I played piano at the Mall again. Every time I do, I seem to get a kiss from someone. I’m a sitting duck on that piano stool, and can’t really escape. Last week it was a male acquaintance who I used to see at the gym, and today it was a female acquaintance who I haven’t seen in a long while. It’s quite off-putting when I’m in the middle of a piece, as you can imagine. I’ve had my head patted and my shoulders squeezed on occasion. I’ve had people come and ask me directions to a certain shop, or enquire whether I give piano lessons, or if I can play “Meat Loaf!” :lol: Last week I had someone brusquely ask, “Do you play the organ?” to which question I decided the safest answer was, “No.” The security beeper goes off at the entrance to the clothing store on my right at regular intervals, and clumsy people bang into the piano as they walk past, even though there’s plenty of room.  All this happens whilst I’m blithely playing my little heart out. Today I felt led to give a rendition of “Fools rush in where angels fear to tread,” closely followed by “Send in the Clowns.” :) Most people however, just give a friendly smile or a wave, which is always welcome.

It’s not strictly true to say that I don’t play the organ, and another day, I must remember to tell you a few hilarious stories from my organ playing past.

Now I’m off to watch some more Olympics. Have a great evening, or rest of the day, depending on where you are.

Weekly photo challenge……….Hands

Hi again everyone. Here is my post for the ‘Hand’ challenge this week.

Now that my eyesight has been beautifully restored to perfection over the past few weeks, following the successful cataract operations, I am returning to my Wednesday seat at the piano in our local shopping mall.

I’m so grateful to my eye surgeon for the excellent job he did, so that I can now see both near and far without having to wear either contact lenses or glasses.

Each part of our bodies has such an important function, and to play the piano, I not only need my eyes, but also my hands, so here are a couple of photos of my hands doing a bit of practising before I go and entertain the lunchtime shoppers today.

I expect I’ll see quite a few regulars who always come to greet me. Last time I played, the elderly woman who I’ve nicknamed “the muffin lady,” came for a little chat and a big hug.  She lives by herself, and supplements her pension, by baking for the coffee shop in the centre.  I was so touched when she handed me a bag containing two freshly baked scones for hubby and myself. I really have some lovely interactions with people whilst my hands are flying over those piano keys. ;)

Have a great day, everyone. Chat again soon.

Thoughts on learning to receive gracefully.

On Sunday, I played the piano again at our local shopping mall. I had promised to stand in for the usual pianist, so although I wasn’t supposed to put in my contact lenses until after seeing the eye doctor tomorrow, I’m afraid I cheated, and did. It’s been awful this past week, trying to manage with specs I’m not used to, but with the antibiotics, the eye infection seems to have cleared up.

There were many shoppers, and I really enjoyed playing for them.

 

 

Quite a few people stopped to say “thank you for the beautiful music,” and I was feeling so good, until something happened which really threw me. An elderly man came up to the piano, smiled at me and thanked me. He then bent down and put a R10 note on the stool next to me. I was so taken aback that I stopped playing, snatched it up and tried to give it back to him, saying, “No, no, you mustn’t do that. I do get paid for playing here.” I must tell you that he didn’t look at all well off, in fact quite the opposite. We had quite a tussle with this R10, but he absolutely refused to take it back, and pressed it firmly into my hand. “I want you to have it because you play with such care, and I so appreciate that,” he said. When he eventually walked away, I felt quite shaken and had difficulty getting back into my playing, as I was feeling so bad about taking his money.

I kept wondering if I should just have just accepted it gracefully and thanked him, instead of feeling so awkward about the whole episode. I hoped that I hadn’t diminished his joy of giving, by my unwillingness to accept his thank you gift. I wondered if he was disappointed at my reaction, and it was on my mind for the rest of the day, and as you can see by this post, I’m still thinking about it.

I remember many years ago, a sweet old lady came past, and put a R2 coin on the piano, and I felt bad that she’d given me this money probably out of her pension. I know these are very small amounts I’m talking about, but I felt on both occasions that it was some sort of sacrifice on their part, and here was I with plenty of everything, being given money that they could maybe ill afford to part with.

I think we are usually taught that “it is better to give than to receive,” but are we ever instructed on how to graciously receive unexpected compliments, gifts, or unnecessary acts of kindness? If we learn to do this, we allow the giver to express themselves, and with a smile and a “thank you,” we honour their act of giving.  It’s possible to balance the acts of giving and receiving, so that both the giver and the receiver benefit equally, and I hope that I’ve learned my lesson, so that in future, I will be a good receiver. I will of course pass on that money to someone else in the very near future; pay it forward, as it were, and hope that they don’t throw it back at me. Embarassed

On a lighter note, I was just remembering how, when I was quite young, and was playing one evening in a very up-market restaurant, a business man who was entertaining clients, sent over a request for “Tea for two,” together with a R200 note, and his business card with his phone number underlined. I played the request, accepted the money, but sent back his card with the waiter. Wink

Have a great day everyone. Chat again soon.

 

 

Weekend beachcombing, and piano playing.

Saturday was so beautiful, sunny and with hardly a breath of wind, so we set off quite early for another walk along the beach front. So many people were out there already. There were the joggers, the dog walkers, and a couple of fathers with babies in strollers, obviously having been sent out to give their wives a bit of peace, and maybe a bit longer in bed. There were young children, excitedly skipping along ahead of their parents, so impatient to get onto the sand. Quite a few elderly folk slowly ambled along, and I saw one couple sitting gazing out to sea, holding hands in companionable silence; the husband was in a wheelchair, and his wife must have pushed him quite some way from the car park. It made me so grateful for my health and strength. I suppose one never knows what the future holds though, as we go into old age.

The surfers were having a great time, and the waves were perfect. here you can see one in particular, really riding that wave, and in the left of the pic, is a boat from the Sharks Board checking the nets.

 

 

Along the promenade, there are so many vendors, selling anything from ice-cream to basketry and bead-work, but most of the wares these days, seem to be made in China. Here are three ‘mobile shops’ on the beach.

 

 

These guys wander up and down all day, trying to sell their wares. The man sweeping the steps was on his phone, and ended up sweeping the sand off the steps using only one hand, whilst he did the cell phone dance.

This young couple had set up the fishing rod on the rocks, and were relaxing whilst waiting for their supper to bite.

 

 

 

Filling plastic bottles with sea water, is something many families do when on holiday down here. They take it back home for their domestic worker, as it’s supposed to be very therapeutic.

 

 

African Sangomas (Witch doctors), believe that it has medicinal properties, and one can often see buses and taxis on the return trip to Johannesburg, with huge plastic containers of sea water secured to the roof. I would be very wary of drinking the stuff, knowing what children and maybe some adults do whilst paddling in the water. Surprised

We walked all the way to end of the promenade and found a bench to sit on for a while, just admiring the view and watching the bathers. Then it was the long trek back home, which is just beyond the lone tree you can see in this pic.

 

 

Today, I played the piano at our local Mall, and it was great to sit there for a couple of hours, entertaining the passers-by. I saw a few friends who stopped for a chat and then there were the parents with small children who wanted to know if I teach piano. One sweet little boy proudly told me that he can play “Ode to Joy”, but when I moved over to give him a place on the piano stool, he changed his mind and said that he’d rather listen to me play. Wink

I read in the news that Robin Gibb of the Bee Gees, is in a coma after contracting pneumonia. He’s been battling liver cancer for years, and is the last surviving of the three brothers. I used to love their music, and my favourite song was “How deep is your love,” so I played it this morning on the piano and said a prayer that he will recover, although I believe that he is not expected to live much longer. So sad for his family.

Well tomorrow I have to see the eye specialist, as my vision is deteriorating somewhat, and I may have to have a cataract operation. I’m rather squeamish about anyone messing with my eyes, but I suppose what will be, will be. Hope you’re having a great day. Chat again soon.