The Weekend Australian - Review - - Contents - Marilyn Cart­mill Re­view thislife@theaus­tralian.com.au

Three friends sit at my piano — 30 fin­gers at the ready — to play Mozart’s over­ture to The Mar­riage of Fi­garo.

Two sit com­fort­ably on the bench and the third on a Chi­nese tea ta­ble that is just the right height.

At our re­spec­tive homes, we each have our own much loved piano. I bought my Vic­tor in 1957, cho­sen from a show­room in the city with money saved from the time I started school.

I didn’t know then that I was saving for a piano, but ev­ery week of my school days one shilling was de­posited in my Com­mon­wealth Bank book.

In pri­mary school a bank clerk came to the school and set him­self up at the teacher’s desk to col­lect the de­posits.

In high school my mother made the weekly trek to the bank, and fi­nally the pass­book was given to me when I mar­ried.

At the time I felt guilty spend­ing the money on my­self, but my un­der­stand­ing hus­band as­sured me the money was mine to do with as I wanted and so this sweet-toned piano came to live in our flat. It has not been played ev­ery sin- gle day since but has al­ways been there as a calm­ing in­flu­ence in good times and bad.

At first we four friends played duets — and we each had lots of mu­sic from our child­hood — but then Ruth dis­cov­ered some mu­sic for six hands among some in­her­ited sheet mu­sic, and since then we’ve searched high and low for oth­ers. With help from some sheet mu­sic sup­pli­ers it’s amaz­ing how much we’ve found.

Our group meets at 10am ev­ery al­ter­nate Tues­day at one or other of our houses to play four and six-hand piano. We call it an “elite con­tact sport” as there is plenty of el­bow con­tact as we fight for “our” notes. Very lady­like, of course.

But the first item of busi­ness is al­ways to have cof­fee and cake be­cause Joy, who trav­els the far­thest, as­sures us she can’t do any­thing un­til she has had both.

The cof­fee and cake is a small cer­e­mony in it­self — best cups and saucers, sil­ver tea­spoons and our mothers’ cake forks. Ruth makes the best light tea­cake in the world; Bev con­tin­ues to sur­prise with her never-end­ing va­ri­ety of slices; and Joy serves us a cream sponge that she tells us she buys (but we know she re­ally whips it up her­self). I’m still try­ing to bake the per­fect date loaf.

We look for­ward to our Tues­days with the same en­thu­si­asm as when we first met.

We re­joice in our friend­ship. I smile when I think about it.

We could never have imag­ined that 70 and 80 years ago when we were prac­tis­ing our scales and arpeg­gios we would, at this time in our lives, bless the hours spent to­gether.

wel­comes sub­mis­sions to This Life. To be con­sid­ered for pub­li­ca­tion, the work must be orig­i­nal and be­tween 450 and 500 words. Sub­mis­sions may be edited for clar­ity. Send emails to The foot­ball club PSV Eind­hoven is based in which coun­try? Who stars as Tarzan’s wife in the new movie Armistice Day is com­mem­o­rated on the 11th day of which month ev­ery year? The mu­si­cal Bernard Shaw?

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