Home > Uncategorized > 2) What I didn’t want to say was…

2) What I didn’t want to say was…

We’d been practicing for the end of year school concert. Uncle Fred was the piano, violin and singing teacher of Ile-Ife campus as I remember it. A man with a gentle face, moustache, great hands. He had that secret ingredient all piano teachers need to have which was a combination of saccharine niceness but also the eyes that said “This can go at any time and the monster can come, do you want the monster to come? Well then practice your scales.”

I practiced my scales along with the piece I would be playing at Oduduwa Hall. Which was it, was it the Habanera or maybe it was a more jolly piece – can’t remember now. Lots of excitement and the day finally arrived. We, us performers, were all seated in the front rows of the big hall. Everyone had a slot but no one seemed to know when their slot was. A slot, a time to saunter onto the stage, sit at the piano and wow the crowd, or sit by the microphone and pull tunes out of the fiddle, whatever your thing was, that would be your slot. Except I didn’t seem to have any comprehension of when my slot was. Others may have been better off but it seemed to me like Uncle Fred was the only one who knew the secret order of slots. Basically every few minutes Uncle Fred would turn and stare at someone and then they’d know – this is my slot. A fairly decent system except – as most things – it didn’t take into account bowel movements. You see you didn’t know when you were going to be up you only knew when you were up.

So what if you realised you needed to pee and now you couldn’t ascertain whether you had sufficient time to pee and come back and not have missed the stare from Uncle Fred? I think I debated in my head, Uncle Fred too far away to ask, too busy giving people, whose slots were up, the necessary stare. I must have thought, in my eight-year-old pea brain, that I’d be fine. That I’d manage to give a brilliant (the best actually) rendition of Habanera ever known and then go pee – seemed sensible enough. Except, after dutifully receiving my stare from Uncle Fred, I didn’t saunter onto the stage, I shuffled. After all how do you “hold it in” and saunter at the same time – no one’s figured this out and I certainly wasn’t breaking any new ground on the matter that night at Oduduwa Hall. I sat on the seat and began to play. By the time I’d replayed the first bar three times over my socks were soaked in the distinct-smelling yellow liquid us animals are all familiar with. Breaking all protocol, Uncle Fred, climbed onto the well-lit stage and rescued me. He folded away my piano book, helped me off the seat, took my hand and walked me off the set. The audience went “awwwwww” which is just as well ‘cause without that sound to distract, what they would have heard as I walked was squelch squelch squelch. Needless to say, I’m not very good at playing piano.

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