How I hated Wednesday afternoons. At 3.00 pm on the dot she would appear. Miss Young. I never knew her first name, nor did I care.
The piano was in the chilly front room of a late thirties semi in a respectable suburb of Liverpool. A room used once a week for the traditional Jewish Friday night roast chicken when the usual suspect relatives came with their weekly gossip.
I must have been thirteen. I did NOT possess a talent for black and white ivory keys. She would sit primly in the Lloyd Loom bucket chair to my left. I would sit on the mahogany music stool containing my mother’s sheet music especially Aufedersein Sweetheart with Vera Lynn’s smiling portrait. I sat squarely flattening past wartime melodies and memories whilst struggling with endless scales.
Always the same clothes. A plain white tucked in blouse with an antique heirloom mourning brooch under the scalloped collar. Did she only possess one grey pleated skirt?
How I hated her smell. A clawing odour. Was it B.O.? It was unknown in our house. A woman, perhaps in her forties and WELL past her sell by date.
But this was Liverpool in the fifties with Paul Anka’s ‘Diana’ and the Everley Brothers ‘Wake up little Suzy’ also beneath my derriere on top of out-dated Vera Lynn.
Miss Young was always irritated by my lack of progress, my clumsiness and hesitant chords. No encouragement from this… DRAGON. No smiles, just professional silence and constant smirks and grunts of disapproval.
Months went by – perhaps years wasting time while I could have been playing Elvis on my Dansette record player in my mauve bedroom.
Revenge came sooner than I expected.
My Uncle Lewis had fought in North Africa during WW1 and had brought back a large dagger plunged into its ornately decorated scabbard. This trophy was proudly displayed on the wall up high to the left of the tiled salmon pink fireplace. Its sharp blade, rusty, so my mother was told, with Arab blood.
The Liverpool Echo, which rarely carried foreign news, reported an article on a thirteen year old American school girl who had stabbed her music teacher to death with a dagger thirteen times. Well I was thirteen too. I clipped the cutting and left it on top of the piano for Mamzelle to see..
At the end of the lesson I grasped the moment.
‘Read this article, Miss Young’.
‘Look at that dagger on the wall Miss Young’.
‘If you say another word about my playing, I’m going to stab you with that dagger thirteen times’.
Miss Young, blanched, rose silently and exited from my life forever.
Thirty five years later, in a professional situation, I came across that aroma. It was the famous Tabu perfume by Dana in the fifties. The music sheets ended up in my commercial social history archive so that the music of the past lies silent but still present in the Noughties.