Sunday July 10, 2005
|The BEST in the WORLD
“You’ll never find it,” Graham said, taking a break from copying audio CDs to take with him to Somerset. “Unless you look in a museum, of course.”
“How much do you want to bet?”
He looked at me, sized up my determination, and declined the offer of a harmless flutter. “Not when you look like that,” he said. “Go and see if you can find one.”
See, when I was a youth, attending weekly lessons with my very first piano teacher, I was taught from a floppy-paged piano instruction book: Smallwood’s Piano Tutor—The BEST in the WORLD. Goodness knows how many hours I spent working my way through that, playing the exercises, over and over, because I can see it now, half a century later, when I close my eyes. Not only that, but I can recall the words of one of the songs, and sing them, too. We used to croon away at it, my piano teacher and I, crying sentimental tears over tea and biscuits, sitting at the piano in her small parlour in Worcester Park. Wish I could remember her name, but it’s gone. I do remember the real tiger skin rug in front of the fire. Hated the thing. Made me sad, it did, just like the little flower girl in the song, a reminder of days gone past when glassy-eyed stuffed tiger heads were acceptable things to have about you in your home, and waifs on street corners, too, I suppose.
So, anyway, not only did I find it but I discovered that it’s still in print, still in use, and while probably frowned upon by the politically correct, still recommended by piano teachers of the old school. I ordered a copy. I’m looking forward to propping it up on my new piano and working through every exercise, every scale, and every song, many, many times until I can sight read fluently again.
“Told you,” I said.
“Yeah. I should know better.”
“I even remember the words of one of the songs,” I said, and proceeded to do my very best rendition of “Won’t you buy my pretty flowers” with all the pathos stops pulled firmly out.
“You do that again,” he said, “and I shall be forced to kill you.”
“Don’t be unkind.”
“I’ll be unkind if I want to. I’ve only got another week to be unkind.”
“Oh. Alright, then. Proceed with caution.”
Wont You Buy My Pretty Flowers? (1874)
Underneath the gaslight’s glitter,
There are many sad and weary,