The Simple Things
TAKE A DEEP BREATH…
Notice pinned to the Brampton village hall noticeboard: Come for a Second World War singalong, Tuesday evening at 7pm,
Marigold Bisgood. I put the notice up gingerly. Who knew how everyone would react, or if anyone would turn up at all? “It’s worth a try,” I told myself. Opening the door out into the frosty night, I took a deep breath of fresh air. “It doesn’t matter if no one comes, after all.”
Once I got into the warmth of my little sitting room, I took out my mother’s song sheets. I’d found them in the attic, clearing out last week: ‘ We’ll Meet Again’, ‘Don’t Sit Under the Apple Tree’, ‘The Boogie-Woogie Bugle Boy’ and ‘The White Cliffs of Dover’.
My mother had sung in the choir during the war, the women pulling together to get through the horrors of Dunkirk, then Battle of Britain, and the Blitz.
“It was all about keeping spirits up,” she’d told me. “We weren’t going to let Hitler see that he was getting us down!”
She taught me how to play the piano to all these old tunes. Her favourite was ‘The White Cliffs of Dover’, and she’d tell me how she imagined she was one of the bluebirds, soaring high over the cliffs and fields in the radiant sunshine after the war.
It was only a few months ago that she died, older but still with that essence of magic. I found it difficult to be here, in her place, and moving to the village. I had a sense of displacement, a feeling that everyone else knew each other, except me.
What was I thinking, starting a singing group? Of course no one would come.
Tuesday evening arrived, and I marched down to the hall ten minutes early determined to put up a good front. The hall was empty, although someone had left the heating on, so at least it was warm and, once the lights were on, it looked rather friendly, with the piano in one corner.
I sat down and put a finger on middle C, listening to the sound reverberate around the empty space. It wasn’t too badly out of tune.
Lifting the music out of my bag, I decided to give myself a bit of a warm-up, placing ‘ We’ll Meet Again’ carefully on the music rest. There were one or two mistakes because of my nerves, but I soon became immersed in the tune. Memories of childhood came flooding back: the family get-togethers, all of us standing around the piano at parties, the merry sound of Mum singing in the kitchen. It’s almost magical how a song can bring everything back to life inside you – like it was there all along, just waiting to be relived.
Suddenly a voice rang out behind me, a woman’s voice, young and clear, singing along with the music. Hope rose inside me, and I kept playing as an older woman’s voice joined in. Still following the tune I knew so well, I turned to see three more women come in, one of them elderly and being helped along by the younger two. By the time I reached the final chorus, several more people had arrived, and although we were not more than a dozen, we were certainly a happy little group. “Do you have ‘The White Cliffs of Dover’?” someone called. I brought it out, thinking of the bluebirds and my mother, and, as I played the first soaring notes, I suddenly felt as light as a bird, home at last.