'Perhaps we were making it look easy!'
One piece of news recently received concerns Russ, a friend from long ago who has just gone into a care home, which is ironic as that is how we met some years ago, writes WARD'S WORLD COLUMNIST JOHN WARD.
We met via a mutual acquaintance but his real talent was being a rather brilliant keyboard player who also donated some of his time playing in one or two local care homes.
I found out by accident really as I was visiting somebody in one of them as he was performing in their day room, or whatever they called it, as I heard music as I entered but thought it was the radio playing.
Sticking my head around the corner there he was, ‘tickling the ivories’ as they say about piano players plus the person I was visiting was among the assembled group listening so I sat down with them.
He spotted me during a break, then popped over as we had a natter but whatever it was, the next bit was I was with him next to the keyboard as we literally made it up on the spot as in ad libbing it as we did a simple thing we called ‘Do you remember?’ as he played a few bars of a song or tune.
I recounted assorted moments in my life (possibly boring to them) but then ‘swung it around’ as I said that we wanted to know what their moments were.
It was quite easy – Russ played a tune as I asked the guests if it brought back any memories; the response was, after the initial possible shock, quite good as one after another we heard their stories or those moments captured in time by the simple sound of a tune.
Some were joyful of an age long gone by but still fondly remembered by a musical prompt, some memories shared were very uplifting, some not so with one or two that made you think we are/or were not doing too badly all things considered.
But overall an amazing but unplanned, spur of the moment thing that seemed to be well received.
I don’t know who was more amazed – me or Russ – but whatever, it was indeed ‘working’ judging by the reaction from those people in front of us that had really seen and lived interesting lives that we had just been privileged to have learnt about.
We finished as Russ was going to another engagement and I saw the person I had gone to visit as we had our usual natter about just about everything.
A few days later Russ rang to ask if I would consider, subject to any commitments, ‘having another go’ as the residents and staff were asking, like the Charles Dickens character ‘Olivier Twist’ possibly, could they ‘have more, please’ of our routine?
So once a convenient time was sorted out it was back to do ‘our routine’ which by now the size of the audience had almost doubled it appeared as we found out that before some of them had been doing their own thing elsewhere.
It was after the fourth appearance that things took a turn for the worse as we were to find out – or rather I did.
Completely out of the blue I had a phone call from the lady who was in charge of the home that ‘these sessions were becoming rather stressful for the guests’ (!?) so would I not bother going on the following arranged Thursday afternoon.
‘No problem,’ I replied as the last thing we wanted to do was cause any problems as she then added she was going to inform Russ after ringing off.
I suppose I should have felt there was something not quite right about it but as I knew in advance, I could reschedule other things to do.
As she was going to ring and explain to Russ, I didn’t see much point in also ringing him as we were going to meet the following weekend at another event anyway.
The phone rang on that Thursday evening as Russ explained how conniving works: he had wondered where I was (!) as he had not been told I had been ‘replaced’ (!) until he got there that afternoon as normal.
It seems our efforts had been noted by the lady in charge as we had gone from strength to strength or in real terms, we did the ground or the hard work to get to that level but then she decided she had her own plans.
Possibly because we made it ‘look easy’ that she decided in her wisdom to get rid of me, then put her daughter in my place and everything would be fine.
However, it seems her delightful daughter had gone through the first 20 or so years of her life with a charisma bypass problem, with great success apparently, so anything mum could get her into no matter how inappropriate the subject, she took it on, like it or not.
The only problem in this case was she did not have a clue – Russ asked where I was after being confronted with the ‘child from hell’ then he was told I had ‘given up on it’ so her daughter had ‘unselfishly jumped in at the last minute’ (!) to keep the show going.
Russ apparently asked if she was any good on the keyboard as he was also ‘giving up on it’ as well, there and then.He then turned to the assembled audience that we had built up over weeks to explain that we ‘were a double act and as such he felt he could not continue’ and so they should ask the lady manager the reason why.
There was silence apart from a lady seated at the rear of the room shouting out: ‘I bet it’s her spoiled brat of a daughter meddling again’ followed by a cry of ‘hear, hear’ before they all stood up to applaud Russ as he walked away.
We both felt rather sad that the very people who benefited were the ones who were the losers due to the underhanded, conniving antics of these less than honest people but how she expected to get away with it was a mystery.
A few months later I met one of the carers who worked there and she said it was a shame how we were ‘used and abused’ but those in her care still spoke fondly of us.
No matter how you try to do something for the common good, without a fanfare of trumpets or motivated by expected backslapping, there is always someone who wants to take things over once the initial work has been done.
Having had a similar experience in more recent times, it seems it’s now common practice among those less concerned with the spirit of fair play.
However, in this last example I can shed light on the real reasons when I get asked by those not happy about the story given as to where and why as you can’t fool everybody all the time.
Now I am making plans to visit Russ, have a chat to put the world to rights but we perhaps won’t talk about the time we made things look so easy that just about anybody thought they could do it as if nothing had happened.
Perhaps there is an art to making things ‘look easy’ – who knows?