A wonderful surprise in the post.

dreamdaisy
dreamdaisy Member Posts: 31,520
edited 30. Mar 2016, 13:26 in Community Chit-chat archive
And a timely one too. (Be warned, long post, if you care enough to read you may need a cuppa.)

Some of you may recall that my Ma died in April 2013 and I was left with the challenge of clearing her house (close on 60 years of accumulated acquisitions and, for me, overwhelming memories). I hired professional house clearance people (I was too far away and under the arthritis cosh so it had to be done remotely). They turned up with two full-sized removal vans and emptied everything from the house, filling the vans, within 24 hours. A life cleared in so short a time. I had taken what I truly wanted but there are still things I regret - my guilt still stings.

The one thing that was left, at my request, was the grand piano, and oh boy she was grand indeed! No way was she going to the council dump and she wasn't a candidate for auction. She was left in the double-aspect sitting room, standing on the parquet floor and looked magnificent. I began (yet again) to try to find a home for her but no-one was interested. On doing some research I discovered that she was built in London in 1802 :shock: comprising thick (compared to modern) walnut and mahogany veneers laid on pine, with equally thick ebony and ivory veneered keys. I wondered about having her lid turned into a coffee table, supported by her three legs, but that would have been huge (she was just over seven feet in total length, I think). I saved her music stand (with slide out candelabra holders) and that is propped up in our sitting room.

I contacted piano restorers in Suffolk who were not interested. She was an Erard, her creator was a French harp maker who fled to London in the late 1700s and moved into pianos, he tinkered and tinkered with his designs but grand pianos are not destined to make good antiques. I was told it would cost me around £35,000 to restore her at the end of which she might be worth around £1,500 but only to the French. Then inspiration struck.

Before Ma's house went on the market I had met a local (to Ma) pen maker, named David, and of some skill it must be said (I bought four of his pens in the initial weeks after Ma's death). I contacted him and told him about the Erard, he sounded interested (even before I said it was his for nothing!) so I went to Beaconsfield (where she lived) and showed him. He fell instantly in love, named her The Old Girl, and arranged for her to be removed (post sale) and into storage, all at his expense. He promised me pens.

Today I received five, all with wood from her (a mix of mahogany and walnut veneers) plus other accents / woods. He's made (and sold, hurrah!) many more from her and people have been intrigued by her story (it's a long one, in short she was a gift to my Pa from a very eccentric C of E vicar in Somerset and when she arrived she lived in our garage for some time because we already had a Broadwood.) We're not as posh as we sound, promise!

I have chosen two of the pens to keep, one is going to two very special married friends who knew Ma and Pa (in his case long before I did) and one is going to his niece who told my Pa to keep the Erard (she's now a harpsichordist of some repute and played the Erard in our garage when she was a teenager, no wonder she liked it because it was more harpsichord than piano!) I have a spare which may go and live in Bea2. Or maybe not. The two I am definitely keeping have wood, ebony and ivory, all from The Old Girl. I can hold the wood that my Ma polished and keys that my Pa played with such skill and I happily thumped from time to time.

I want Mr DD to take pictures of them all then, when I am next in Buckinghamshire, I will leave the pictures under the tree where we scattered my parents' ashes. Of course I know they won't see them but it will help me to both realise and understand that I made the best fist of things (with David's help) that I could when it came to 'The Old Girl'. She lives on and I am so grateful. I will ring him to say thank you when I've stopped crying. DD

Comments

  • mig
    mig Member Posts: 7,152
    edited 30. Nov -1, 00:00
    Blinking Eck DD you've got me at it now. Mig
  • Slosh
    Slosh Member Posts: 3,194
    edited 30. Nov -1, 00:00
    How wonderful.
  • Megrose2
    Megrose2 Member Posts: 331
    edited 30. Nov -1, 00:00
    Incredibly touching, DD. So pleased that you have this memento of your parents.

    Meg
  • dachshund
    dachshund Member Posts: 8,253
    edited 30. Nov -1, 00:00
    DD how lovely I bet you feel so proud of them.
    joan xx
  • rondetto
    rondetto Member Posts: 2,470
    edited 30. Nov -1, 00:00
    Wow!!!! Some story that DD and what a grand finish (Pardon the pun) Brings a tear to the eyes.
  • frogmorton
    frogmorton Member Posts: 27,462
    edited 30. Nov -1, 00:00
    Oh gosh!

    How lovely :)

    What a clever artist he must be! him calling the piano 'old girl' meant he respected her so he must be a genuinely 'nice' man.

    I think those pens area a great tribute to your parents' characters as well as their lives and they would be very touched to see them. I am one who believes they just might.

    Some of those receiving gifts of these pens will be reduced to tears too I am sure.

    ((())) xxx
  • applerose
    applerose Member Posts: 3,621
    edited 30. Nov -1, 00:00
    Wow what a wonderful story DD and such a brilliant idea. The Old Girl certainly does live on. Brought a tear to my eye.
  • dreamdaisy
    dreamdaisy Member Posts: 31,520
    edited 30. Nov -1, 00:00
    Thank you, everyone, for your kind replies. I lack the required tecchiness to post a picture but if you would like to see them (or have the details of David's website) please PM me with your details so I can contact you (just once, I promise) off the AC grid. Mr DD was amazed by them which surprised me what with him being a Bloke and all; I thought he just say 'Yeah, they're not bad.' He spent at least ten minutes examining them under a good light - and tried them too!

    I must find my other pens, they were tidied away when the house was being internally decorated. I have a fountain and ball pen duo made from coffee beans set in cream acrylic and yes, they smell of coffee. I also have a biro made from an old railway sleeper which reeks of creosote. Who needs pens that smell of strawberries? :wink: Coffee and creosote is far more attractive :) David is an astonishing craftsman. DD
  • GraceB
    GraceB Member Posts: 1,595
    edited 30. Nov -1, 00:00
    Sounds absolutely wonderful DD and what a lovely momento for you.

    Being a coffee addict, I especially like the sounds of your pen made out of coffee beans.

    GraceB
  • dreamdaisy
    dreamdaisy Member Posts: 31,520
    edited 24. Mar 2016, 09:46
    Some further news. An Erard pen has been despatched to Jean (French for John) who met my Pa at University College London in 1954, when Pa was 34. A small event called the Second World War got in the way of Daddy's further education; he left school aged 14 (after his father died thanks to being gassed in the First WW.) Pa was the eldest of 7 children and had to go to work to supplement his mum's War Widow's pension of a mere 10 bob a week. I was told by Ma that Jean was then aged 18 and on his own (his parents lived in Istanbul) but he and Pa hit it off and Jean became part of their lives. Even to this day Jean clearly remembers pitching up at Ma and Pa's flat on many a Christmas Eve to fill mince pies with teaspoons of a 'vile mix' (as he called it). Jean was the first person to hold me (apart from my parents) after my birth in 1959, he was terrified he would drop me. He didn't. (I reminded him of this at Ma's funeral in 2013 and advised that now he shouldn't try to carry me. So far so good :wink: )


    This is why I have sent him a pen, once I had discovered David and his work it was always a plan because after Pa died Jean did sterling work for Ma and me in contacting the National Trust, English Heritage, the Landmark Trust etc. about the Erard, pointing out it could be a useful addition to various period rooms. They were not impressed. He was a huge part of my parents' lives (and still is in mine) and it was his niece who persuaded Pa to keep the Erard and ditch the Broadwood. She too will be receiving a pen.

    I am hoping that the Webmanager will post a link on this thread to an article concerning David and The Old Girl. She has kindly sent it to me but I am not able to see too well due to wet eyes (I hope you catch my drift) because as you know I am useless at the techy stuff. DD
  • dreamdaisy
    dreamdaisy Member Posts: 31,520
    edited 30. Nov -1, 00:00
    Thank you, I appreciate your kindness in doing this. DD
  • ichabod6
    ichabod6 Member Posts: 843
    edited 30. Nov -1, 00:00
    Hello dd,

    Just watched the linkup. Fascinating
  • tkachev
    tkachev Member Posts: 8,332
    edited 30. Nov -1, 00:00
    A lovely story DD. The pictured pens are beautiful.

    I love that his Father said 'wood is one of the few things when dead, can be bought back to life'. You can certainly see that reflected in the items that he has made.

    Beaconsfield is a beautiful place. At one point my Girls went to school in Gt.Missenden and many of the pupils came from the Beaconsfield area so would regularly drive out there.

    How lovely to have such a beautiful memento.

    Elizabeth
  • applerose
    applerose Member Posts: 3,621
    edited 30. Nov -1, 00:00
    It was lovely to see how your pens were made DD. I'm sure Jean and his niece will be over the moon with theirs.
  • stickywicket
    stickywicket Member Posts: 26,697
    edited 30. Nov -1, 00:00
    That is a truly wonderful story. How lovely that the piano could be put to such great use, not as a musical instrument but regenerated as a writer's tool. Being where I am right now (Just a few miles north of Hollywood) I can't help but feel, in the right hands, it would make a terrific movie. Fancy yourself as a screenwriter, DD? You could use one of the pens to do it.

    I'm so glad you had a happy ending and sure Jean and co will have the most special of mementos of your parents.
  • dreamdaisy
    dreamdaisy Member Posts: 31,520
    edited 30. Nov -1, 00:00
    It was only when I received the pens, and saw how beautiful they were, that it dawned on me that maybe I had a story to tell. Ma and Pa, Jean, members of his family and The Old Girl were just part of my very ordinary life but even ordinary lives have their extraordinary parts - we just don't know it.

    Ma clearly remembered Pa coming home from UCL, around mid-October saying 'I've met a young man from Istanbul in Turkey, he's here on his own so I thought it might be nice to invite him round for a meal.' They extended the invitation and Jean duly accepted. Ma was most disappointed when he arrived in ordinary Western clothing , she was expecting the full baggy trousers, waistcoat and pointy shoes get-up. (This was England in the mid-50s so not the most sophisticated of places. :wink: ) Pa was reading mechanical engineering and Jean electrical engineering, their conversations were fascinating although complete gobbledygook to others.

    In due course my parents met Jean's parents and firm friendships were built. Jean's father (before he retired) had been a top lawyer, assisting Kemal Ataturk in establishing modern Turkey; he adored Oxford Thick Cut Orange marmalade, it was eaten throughout the day when they were over here and many jars were taken back to Turkey. His wife was the most petite of women, maybe 4'6" tall, my Pa was 6'4" so the pair of them were a terrific contrast! I'll shut up now. DD
  • tkachev
    tkachev Member Posts: 8,332
    edited 30. Nov -1, 00:00
    No need to shut up DD as it is a lovely story. I apologise for writing bought and not brought in my original post.

    Elizabeth
  • applerose
    applerose Member Posts: 3,621
    edited 30. Nov -1, 00:00
    No DD. Don't shut up. It is such a fascinating story. I have enjoyed hearing about it.
  • dreamdaisy
    dreamdaisy Member Posts: 31,520
    edited 30. Nov -1, 00:00
    Jean has just rung. He has his pen and both he and his wife are delighted with it which is a relief. I've passed on the details of the page that the Webmanager so kindly put on here for me and he is going to have a read. He recalls building a lute for one of his nieces and how long that took with steaming the wood etc! He also built a harpsichord from scratch, the technicalities of such things always appealed to him and Pa. DD

    PS No need for apologies, tkachev, typos are easily made, yes? I've been known to do one or two myself (tripe anyone :wink: )
  • bubbadog
    bubbadog Member Posts: 5,544
    edited 30. Nov -1, 00:00
    Just been looking at the pens, they are beautiful and amazing! Even my OH was impressed at the work that had been done to make them and that is a high honour from him. :lol:
  • Sapp50
    Sapp50 Member Posts: 22
    edited 30. Nov -1, 00:00
    What a wonderful outcome DD. I hope the pens bring you many years of joy and hapiness.

    God bless
  • dreamdaisy
    dreamdaisy Member Posts: 31,520
    edited 30. Nov -1, 00:00
    David was able to make three fountain pens from the ebony and ivory used on the keys. Today I received the last one (I bought it just in time!) plus the nameplate of the 'Old Girl'. The pen is a very good weight but the nameplate is very, very heavy as it's solid walnut with a pine core. What I thought was inlaid brass for the name is actually hand-applied gold leaf and David has echoed this on both finials of the pen and with a band around its middle. DD
  • applerose
    applerose Member Posts: 3,621
    edited 30. Nov -1, 00:00
    They certainly knew how to make things well in those days. So glad you've got the name plate too.

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