6 May 2008


Politicians lie all the time. When comedians tell jokes they are usually just lies - those funny things never really happened. When you think of it, any novel is just a massive lie - a pretence - the spinning of a yarn. Advertisers lie. Priests, parsons, mullahs and rabbis lie as they reinterpret holy books which are themselves just strings of untruths and imagined truths - lies in other words.

From time to time we all tell lies. We exaggerate achievements, inflate stories or miss out vital truths. In this, I am as remiss as anyone even though one of the fundamental moral tenets I try hard to uphold is contained in the saying "Honesty is the best policy".

I remember when I was nine years old. On Tuesdays, after the school day had ended, I would ride on a school bus to the nearby village of Catwick to receive piano lessons from Mrs Maddox. She must have been something of a local entepreneur because she was always baking huge trays of tarts and scones, sausage rolls and vol-au-vents as well as teaching piano to local children.

I hated those trips. Hated the mechanical and heartless way in which Mrs Maddox attempted to teach piano skills. There was no love, no fun, no delight. You had your scales to do and dull pieces to learn by heart - "Where O Where Has My Little Dog Gone?" Where indeed?

Each week I gave the overweight, bespectacled and bepowdered middle aged lady my precious shillings. Frequently, she would leave the forty five minute lesson to deliver baking while I continued with my tedious practice in her equally dull living room with its chintz curtains, swirling Axminster carpet and flock wallpaper. I don't think this is what my parents were expecting from a piano teacher - someone who would bobby off on her rounds for most of the lesson.

Anyway, one week I was so utterly and mind numbingly bored that I left the piano stool and wandered into the kitchen where I spotted a box of matches next to a packet of "Number 6" cigarettes. I struck a match and watched it burn. Then I wandered back into the musical torture chamber and well, I cannot remember why - but I decided to test a match flame on one of Mrs Maddox's tassle-edged cushions. It flared up so I stomped it out and put the cushion back on the armchair.

Hearing my long distance piano teacher returning in her car, I returned to the dreaded piano stool. However, as soon as Mrs Maddox came in the room she sniffed my offence and was quickly on to the singed cushion. I tried to lie my way out of it - saying I knew nothing about that horrible cushion. Of course, she didn't believe me and ordered me out of her house, saying that I had to tell my parents what I had done and that I wasn't to come back again.

I was confused and ashamed of myself. I just couldn't bring myself to tell mum or dad what I had done and returned to piano practice the following week as if nothing had happened. Mrs Maddox never delivered baking on my time again and later I became a concert pianist - wowing audiences from Vienna to New York. (The last bit is another lie!)


  1. I too had equally tedious piano lessons from Mr Wilde. 90 if he was a day. Oh how I thrilled to the scales and God-awful 'set pieces'. "We are the Farmers Boys" in particular I can still whistle now.

    And then one week he gve a simplified version of the Moonlight Sonata to learn - I was blown away and was note perfect within a week.

    Confusingly we soon returned to mindless "O Where is my Doggy" crap and I ended up playing truant every Tuesday night and pocketing the half-a-crown fee.

    It was over a year before my deviousness was discovered but all's well that ends well as I too became a renowned concert pianist.

    (Only one part of that story is a lie).

  2. I never needed piano lessons because I was born with the magical ability to play and once I stopped using my infant hands to stick my own toes in my mouth I was plunking out chopin.

    (lies... all lies)

    I did have flute lessons though... I was completely crap at that so I've just decided to stick with blogging. :)

    lovely blog sir


  3. Anonymous9:25 pm

    'bobby off'.... what a great expression! I will endeavour to use it at some point in the future!!

  4. I had very tedious piano lessons from Mrs Wrighton and then some more from Mrs Wallace. I have since learned that there is a worldwide conspiracy organised by a group of concert pianists to block all competition by making sure most children are put off the piano for life by making them play How Much Is That Doggy In the Window.

  5. I used to dream of piano lessons, luxury !

  6. Anonymous3:34 am

    My paternal grandmother -- who lived in my house my whole young life -- was a piano teacher who held the captive audience of myself and my three siblings, well, captive, while we pounded out scale after scale and "From a Wigwam" under threat of extra dish-drying duty.

    This way be why I play the guitar. My guitar teacher: a sunny-cheeked nun named Sister Michelle.

  7. 'I used to dream of piano lessons, luxury!' (quote David). Well back then when I were a lass, we had to fettle our own piano and teach ourselves - never mind getting lessons!
    We're going to be in your neck of the woods on Saturday, YP. I thought of bringing the ambulance and loud hailer and calling 'YORKSHIRE PUDDING, WHERE ARE YOU?' all round the relevant part of Sheffield. What do you think?

  8. YP: I wasn't expecting the story to go the way it went! I thought you were going to stop showing up for piano lessons and save your shillings to buy a guitar.

    I have told some lies in my time of which I've been ashamed (one was in 2nd grade, in retaliation against two boys who tattled on me for telling a potty joke on the school bus), but I have also told lies told to protect others from harm.

    Jennyta: It would be funny if you went around calling out, "Yorkshire Pudding" and bunches of people stuck their heads out of their doors and said, "We're having Yorkshire Pudding right now-- come join us for dinner!" YP's real name is Cecil Percy Brightlingsey IV, but he likes to be called "Brittles" by his friends at the pub.

  9. Would you like to email me, YP and we can arrange details. Jennyta@hotmail.co.uk.
    Your name isn't really Cecil, is it?

  10. Another piano lessons story. My parents paid the (huge, to them, then) sum of $12 a term to have me taught by dear little old Miss Grey. I remember she had that dreadful old book Straw Peter (http://www.fln.vcu.edu/struwwel/struwwel.html) in her 'waiting room', I found it so scary I could hardly put it down when it was my turn. To play equally silly pieces like "Brightly Row" and "Fairies 'mongst the Trees" ... But some pieces were tricky for my mother (I never ever learnt to read music - I would get my Mum to play them over and over and I would just learn them off by heart) and I discovered that if I played the pieces before *really really* well, Miss Grey would fall asleep and I could turn two pages over at once and miss out the offending one without her noticing. If I played especially well *and* quietly, she would actually snore! Sorry, YP this has turned into a blog post! You cheered me up a bit tho!

  11. Jennyya: I really was kidding. But who knows! Perhaps it's something close, like Cedric or... oh, I'll stop now.

  12. Great story, YP. I thought you were going to put the match to the piano, or at least to the sheet music for "Where, oh where, has my little dog gone..."

    At least when I start a fire, I do it in a barn, not someone's house!

    I'm glad I stuck with my lessons, as I became a renowned concert pianist who has never told a lie.


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