This post is about my dad who would have been 100 today* but died at the age of 97. He was 50 when I was born so you'd think that he would have been too set in his ways to put up with a screaming baby. However, it was quite the reverse and he absolutely adored me from the word go (unless I've been subjected to a bit of revisionist nostalgia). It's too late to find out from my mum anyway; she died quite a few years before him.
I didn't see much of my dad when I was growing up. He was a successful pianist, band leader and musical arranger and, although he always picked me up from school and that was our special time together, he kept a musician's hours - getting up about 11am and going out to work at about 7pm.
It was expected that I'd have piano lessons - and I did, for about seven years - with the obligatory exams at the Royal College of Music - but I really did not enjoy them and felt quite put upon when urged to practice. My piano teacher was old school which made matters worse; she used to stick pennies on my knuckles whilst I played, to ensure that my hands remained flat - that's probably a chargeable offence these days.
Now, back to my dad - I suppose his best professional era was the forties through to the sixties. Whenever an artiste came over from the USA to delight the British audiences, if they didn't bring their own pianist with them it was usually (well, often) my dad that would be asked to accompany them. He worked with some good people - Bob Hope and Danny Kaye - to name two. Some of his friends and contemporaries went on to become very famous and my mum always felt slightly irked that my dad was happier to remain in the background.
For a little while he had an entertainment agency with an office in Charing Cross Road (central London), but his heart wasn't really in it- nor were his body rhythms - as he didn't enjoy getting up early and being office-bound. I always remember sitting by his office window during school holidays (he overlooked Cambridge Circus, the big crossroads where Charing Cross Road meets Shaftsbury Avenue) and he told me it was very important for me to watch the buses go by and write their number down. It was a good way to keep a little girl quiet, made me feel like I also had a job to do and he would give me a pay packet at the end of each day.
Now, the picture at the top here is a still from the film Carry on up the Khyber. For those of you who aren't British you are unlikely to have heard of this (or am I way off here?). It is quite an iconic comedy film, very silly, with some groaning one-liners and, towards the end of the film, there is quite a funny scene where Sid James and co are having a meal whilst the room is under attack by the enemy (it is a comedy, I promise you). There are some musicians in the corner of the room who valiantly play on, despite being blasted by bits of plaster from the ceiling. It is only when the piano collapses that my dad gives up trying to play.
* it was always a bit of a mystery - my dad's actual birthday - because they forgot to register him when he was a newborn. Sometimes my dad would just pick a suitable day in December - according to his workload.