Tuesday, May 31, 2016

A day in two parts

Part One.
A freezing cold morning.  I'm waiting for the train into town, sitting outside in the clear nearly-winter sun.  The train arrives and I get on, look around for a seat, find one and sit down.  The man opposite moves to give me more room and asks if I would like his seat; 'no, I'm fine thanks'.  I look down and notice he has bare feet.  'Are your feet cold?'.  'No, not really, I've got my warm jacket on.' And so our conversation begins.  I spend the rest of the train journey chatting to him, I ask him his name and tell him mine (I'll call him John, even though that's not his name).  We talk about gardening, growing veggies, how I never have any luck with broccoli, how much fun it is to have chooks, how sometimes they stop laying in their laying box and you have to hunt around the garden looking for their eggs.  John lives in a rooming house, the cost covered by his pension.  He says he likes where he is living; that he is happy there.  One of his favourite things is to sit in the garden with a cigarette and a cup of coffee.  He asks me where I am heading and I tell him.  'How about you?' - John says he is heading to his GP for his regular medication, as he has a mental illness  I ask him if he likes his doctor and we talk about how nice to is to have a regular GP that you know, that knows you, not like those mega-clinics where you join the queue for whichever doctor is rostered on.  John asks me about my children, how old they are, what does my husband do, is he a good sort.  He asks me if I have any illnesses and I answer no, so far so good.  We talk about John's school days, that he was a good kid but got a caning once for a bit of classroom mucking around.  He went to Melbourne Grammar.  Then he went to University and studied chemistry and mathematics and went on to work in the mining industry.  He got married, they had one child, and then he got sick.  His marriage ended, his wife and child moved away.  He misses them terribly and sees them sometimes.  But he says he is happy now, that he likes his life.  Sometimes he goes into town to beg outside Parliament house to make a bit of extra money for tobacco (he rolls his own cigarettes because it's cheaper).  He likes the company and the conversations he has in town.  Then our train arrives at Flinders Street Station and we say good bye to each other.  I feel really happy for having met him.

Part Two.
I walk from Flinders Street Station, past the NGV and along St Kilda Road to the VCA music building.  As I walk up I see my friend walking towards me with her cello, ready to rehearse my music.  We walk in to the building, having a quick catch up and a laugh, and make our way to another colleague's room, jam packed with not one but two grand pianos and are joined by two more lovely musician friends who have signed up to help make a CD of my music.  I always feel nervous and full of self doubt before a rehearsal - what if the musicians don't like the music, what if there are mistakes in the score (which there inevitably are when the work has only been played once or twice and not had the benefit of a sharp eyed editor).  Even working with musicians I know, I still feel this moment of anxiety.  We start by listening to some less-than-perfect recordings of the pieces we'll be working on - "beautiful piece, Chris" - and my anxiety fades.  We spend the next three hours working through three pieces, none of which has had more than two performances.  This is a first rehearsal and the notes are yet to sit under the hands but the musicians start the process of acquainting themselves with my music.  We have a break, a few more laughs and then back to work.  There is a set of pieces I've never heard played and I am unsure as to whether they are 'good enough' to go on the CD.  The pianist and violinist delve into this unknown territory and after a couple of sections I hear that the music DOES work, that there are moments of loveliness and subtlety.  "These are great! I really like them" says the pianist and I feel a surge of validation and satisfaction.  We finish up, people have places to go, meetings, classes, we say goodbye on St Kilda Road.  I feel happy and hopeful and I soak in the nearly-winter sun.

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