The Last Supper

A treasured friend and I met for what we've dubbed 'The Last Supper'. Just shy of the COVID-19 lockdowns, we gathered at our favourite local haunt with wine to enhance our immunity. OK, we know wine doesn't do that. Pasta had never tasted so good! At the time this simple staple was unobtainable due to excessive procurement by doomsday-preppers, daigous and panicked bogans. Good food, good wine and the best conversational company possible, shared with one of the few people with whom time spent is effortlessly splendid.

Now we share remote reports of our isolation household and garden doings, all laced with leisurely pseudo-purposeful procrastination. Such very strange times, but strange they must be. There are no gigs, no event tunings (because they're for gigs) and the meagre modicum of domestic tunings has dwindled exponentially. No government hand-outs, but I can handle it.

In early April 2020 there was a flurry of 'quick-get-the-piano-tuned-before-lockdown' tunings, and jobs where instrumental music teachers conducted their first remote lessons and heard the deplorable state of the home piano. Now even the panic-tuning has died off. I can still tune if folk are prepared to adhere to my guidelines. If not, then bugger off (for now).

Here's how we operate in a COVID-19 world. The clients have all gone to work and school (and work is school). A key has been secreted and I've been given clear instructions as to its whereabouts. Behold. Sensible practices. My client provides sequential guidance as to how to find the piano. Exemplary. If she sees her photos here she'll realise what extraordinary lengths I went to to anonymise the snaps. The house's own mother wouldn't recognise it. I've led you all up the garden path.

Client descriptions: Side gate. The word 'ricketty' may have been used in our phone conversation.

Stairs and path. I'd add: Deceptively steep.

It helps to be as certain-footed as a mountain goat. Henceforth, a particular pair of shoes must be regarded as 'dry weather only'. P.S. I'm fine.

Back door.

Piano. I'd add: 'What a lovely room'. I have tuned this piano before, but it was in a completely different location within the house.

I provide evidence of access and tuning (if the improved sound was not enough). Clients usually enjoy a glimpse of their piano naked. In lieu of conventional personal contact, you're assured thorough communication from me. It is great that we have the means. Photos and videos of pianos (both from clients and for clients) are nothing new. Entering empty houses via hidden keys is nothing new. Even before COVID-19 I had clients whom I have never met face-to-face. I appreciate the levels of trust afforded me as piano technician.

So I'm leading a Phantom of the Opera half-life with regard to piano servicing for the forseeable future. And masks are all the rage right now.

More time for gardening.

I like to keep my hedge neat (not a euphemism). The thing about these garden snaps is that they all predate COVID-19, so it's not even isolation gardening. But now, in lockdown, if I spend the morning picking fallen leaves from my pebble gardens, for the first time ever, I don't feel guilty. If the pace of life slows and things becomes more simple, that is not such a bad thing.

More of my mostly-maintained Murrayas. Topiary is a type of pruning I can understand and feel confident with (kindergarden shapes only). I'm cramming as much garden as I can into my small and troublesome spaces. My whole yard is concrete on rock, so to dig a new hole requires a jackhammer. I work with the holes I have (not a euphemism). I bolted the black rectangle pots to my front fence, fixed to the rails, not the pickets. I'm pleased I figured out a way to achieve that.

My 'jungle', an L-shaped brick planter box flanking a deck. My abode is modest, but I have a range of options as to where to indulge my Inner Cat. Please take physical distancing and self-isolating seriously, folks.

These photos are spontaneous domestic updates for mates. There's no Instagram artifice or Pinterest pretense here. I'm normally more coy (or paranoid) about blogging too many 'home' snaps, but they are creeping into this blog now as I consider documenting some more of my gardening exploits.

My jungle deck viewed through the pergola glass that shelters it. I can't get down right now and straighten that chair nor pick up those few stray leaves.

I have stringent protocols for how I access this roof.

Pre-Corona postcards. I team up with my esteemed buddy (she of 'Last Supper' fame, opening this very blog instalment) to close in on a gardening win-win. She'd mused on the merits of possibly pruning her wayward giant tree philodendron. Oooh, covetable crinkled leafiness. Two days later, a storm rendered the philodendron prostrate, impeding egress to the Hills Hoist. Well, that's just un-Australian. I got the call. 

I never say 'no' to a cutting (even when I barely know where to put it). White gloves, the poorest substitute for gardening gloves (those spines are spiky). My friend calls them 'cleaning gloves' and I expect she's been trained to use them to inspect others' window sills. I call them 'stringing gloves'. Piano technicians go all 'jazz hands' whenever they handle music wire.

The fiddly-diddly weaving of felt strips between the backlengths of piano strings is known as 'Tonia Todmaning'. It's both aesthetic and functional, and Tonia Todman has no idea that I've craftily wedged her moniker into the minutiae of piano restringing.

I trudge with delight. Who'd have thought it possible? Nothing ventured, nothing gained. Not one, but two gargantuan sprigs for me to souvenir...

The Commo is chockas.

Memories. My Nissan hatchback with the mega-load of plants that formed the basis of my jungle. 

I'm glad the nursery bloke knew how to load my car efficiently.

I've squeezed one giant cutting in. Now, where to put the next?

I can't love the leafiness more. It's a testament to the jungle's increasing lushness that I can squeeze in these huge cuttings then barely notice them.

The existing leaves perished, but I'm on the verge of witnessing the first viable giant tree philodendron leaf to be born within my own jungle. 

A guest! My anonymised housemate's homecoming (from essential shopping) coincides with the arrival of my singular visitor (physically distanced) brandishing a booty of takeaway fare from our local fave. 'Tis she, of 'Last Supper' fame. To the jungle deck cafĂ© immediately.

Time to immerse oneself in a few books, Cazzbo? This title, already a parody, is over-ripe for meme-reinvention. When Marge Simpson reads Love in the Time of Scurvy, she gets so involved in it that she starts fantasizing that she is the woman character in the book, on the ship with the tanned, muscular pirate. 

In her fantasy, Marge looks at the ocean and says, "My, these seas are certainly heaving." The pirate flirtatiously replies, "Well, no more than your bountiful bosom, milady." He continues, "Ah, the seas have quieted. And only in the sweet embrace of quietude can two lovers truly be..." 

At this moment in reality, Lisa starts practicing her saxophone, cutting off the pirate's flirting with Marge in her fantasy. "Ooh, such noise!" he exclaims as Marge's fantasy is apruptly ended. Marge comes back to reality. "Lisa, stop blowing my sex!" She quickly corrects herself, "I mean, stop blowing your sax! Your sax, stop it!"

Business calls.

But what have we learned about pianos? These boom-gate lids are bloody annoying. They usually have to be removed, and the hinge-pins usually need to be withdrawn toward the wall. That means you have to move the piano. First World Injuries, eh? This lid was able to be stabilised under the stairs.

A post-work toast in the jungle's afternoon sun, as I round out this blog entry with a tribute to those most treasured in my life. Salut!

Guidelines for in-home piano servicing during the COVID-19 crisis


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Pianos: A good bollocking

Easter Saturday - Cycling, filming, tuning.

IMBY (in my back yard)