If music be the food of love…

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Apr 13th, 2013
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… It would be as well to remember that I come from a long line of medieval court poisoners.

Music has always been in this family. My great-grandfather established the family business in Bayham Street, Camden Town in 1883. Piano parts. The bits that go inside, wood, steel, strings, felt etc. Sadly, my association with the piano was not a happy one. We just didn’t seem to get on. And the piano isn’t portable.



My parents talked about it. To this day I do not have the slightest  idea how they arrived at the flute, but there you go. The flute it was. I had a few lessons, and then my parents decided that I needed a flute of my own. Thus was born yet another eccentric partnership in my life. My mother found a flute for a cheap price, and I became the proud, if mildly bemused, owner of a Parrot flute.
When I became further acquainted with my new friend, I discovered a few things. This was way back before the Internet was widely available, so my research into my new treasure involved going into music shops and asking questions. My first question was, is it valuable? Answer NO. It’s very shiny, I grant you, but that’s the patina of chrome… valuable instruments are made of silver plate, silver and in the odd very rare case… Gold! I also discovered that the factory in China which turned them out, Parrot flutes had serial numbers in the high 70,000s new. My serial number is 2360. So my darling was old. Very old.

Our association was a trifle rocky at times. There were frustrations; the moment that I unwisely left it on the sofa and the family dalmation savaged it. The dents are still there.

Fangs for the memory

Fangs for the memory

I managed to wade through grades 3 to 6, scraping passes here and there (my scales and arpeggios were always dicey at best). But then I was 18, interested in other things and the flute started to get pushed more to the background. I went off to university (briefly) and poor old Parrot got sidelined.

I still played once in a while. But mostly not.

Then came the fateful day. I should give you a little background here. My mother is a hoarder. If she was allowed to get away with it she would never EVER throw anything out. I could wax long and lyrical about the oil drum in the garage which she brought from Old Bury Hill House when my parents moved in here, even though this place was brand new and didn’t have oil fired central heating; or the old broken TV set that was a fire hazard which she insisted on keeping despite me shelling out ¬£500 on a new one. Just in case. I had considered putting Just In Case on her tombstone…. But. I digress.

She was also very, very good at hiding things for no especial reason. We went on holiday, and my mother hid my flute, through some seriously misguided need to conceal the valuables. That was in 1990.

Despite many attempts to ferret it out, it remained hidden until 1997. It was only my documenting the many rolls of wallpaper that had appeared (more hoarding) in the loft that discovered my poor old Parrot buried beneath them. Heaven alone knows why. But then heaven alone knows why 187 rolls of wallpaper in a particularly nauseating Sanderson print.

If ever you need to know why I am the way I am… I will point you to my parents and say “y’hafta ask?”

After its triumphant unearthing, Parrot and I formed a loose alliance, in which I would play it from time to time, and generally things were very low key for a long, long time. But recently, I started thinking more about my love for music, which has never really gone away. I am more of a doer than a bystander, so I dug old Parrot out and dusted it off.

Age has wearied the case, and the flute itself is a bit battered and bent. Realistically old Parrot is now very tired, and expending the money on having the keys re-padded when I can buy a second-hand, much newer flute for that kind of money seems silly. But I will never part with old Parrot. It’s been part of my life for FORTY years.

Old Parrot

Old Parrot

1 Comment

  • Mel

    It is only fitting and proper that your American blog partner would be a former professional flutist. That is truly a relic, but it’s your flute and has a wonderful story behind it.

    Thank you for writing this piece. I love it!

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