Life asserts itself regardless

by Cultural Worker

Late March 2020 amidst the virus. With gigs crashing and burning all around it was without much hope that I called a long standing rest home booking:

“ Hi, I’m supposed to be entertaining at your place this afternoon – is it still on?”

“”If you don’t have symptoms, yes, come in.”

The place was one of the more downmarket establishments which I hadn’t worked at before.

A quarter-hour before showtime I knocked on their door. A big hearty guy opened up.

“Yeah?”

“Hi, I’m the piano player.”

The big guy shoved out a meaty hand for me to shake and ushered me in.

“Through here mate. Just hang on and I’ll round a few more of them up.”

‘Through here’ was a warm stuffy lounge where a dozen old folks sat in chairs. Above an upright piano a big screen TV streamed out a quiz show.

After ten minutes more audience arrived but the rounder upper didn’t come back. No-one seemed to be watching the TV screen; I asked a nurse aid to turn it off and started in.

“Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen,  I’d like to play some songs we can sing together. . .”

They turned out to be a great singing crowd, knowing all the words to “Love letters in the sand”, “Tip toe through the tulips”, “Always” and all the other old stuff I like to revisit. Their requests were all doable – “Daisy daisy”, A white sports coat”, “You are my sunshine” and “something by Winifred Atwell”. I’m not sure if Winifred Atwell actually did cover “Honeysuckle Rose” but it seemed acceptable.

Towards the end I said how about we maybe do a song for times of trouble. Together we sang “There’ll be blue birds over the white cliffs of Dover”, with rather a lot of feeling. Then, to finish off our session, we closed with “Side by side”.

Music is something else really, there are few other ways a bunch of total strangers could spend such a happy afternoon together. Several of them asked when I’d next be back and one old lady got up and crossed the room to where I was packing up.

“I’ve had such a lovely afternoon, give me a big hug!”

Finally I was paid, packed and off, but passing the window an old guy banged on it to call me back.

“You left this music book!”

“Thanks for that mate. Sometimes old people forget things.”

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