A means of escape…

🖤🖤 ‘Secrets behind the collar’ is my story. It is the account of the traumatic events not only of 2020, but also of the abuse suffered during my childhood and teenage years.  If you are reading my ‘Secrets’ blog for the first time, you may wish to go back and begin reading from where my story begins. My first post was back in January of this year and can be easily accessed on this site 🖤🖤

1975

I was caught up in a situation over which I felt I had no control, no choice. I was being continually accused of abnormality and convinced that I was aberrant and worthless because I didn’t want to engage in the acts that I now realise were far from the norm. Life was getting pretty desperate all around; but then, in the midst of all this came a man who was going to prove to be my saviour.

I had been having regular piano lessons since the final year of primary school. I had gone as far as I could with my dad’s friend teaching me and now needed to change teacher. I spoke to the Head of Music at school and he offered to teach me. Up until this time, the Piano Examinations I’d taken were London College of Music. He told me that in order to progress further I needed to move across to Associated Board exams. I worked hard and entered and passed my Grade 5 practical and theory.

Having taken me through my Grade 5, that same Head of Music walked into the Music Room in school one day and put a prospectus on the desk in front of me.

“Look at it, think about it seriously,” he said.

The prospectus was for Bretton Hall College of Higher Education. It was affiliated to Leeds University. He was suggesting that I train as a teacher.

I can clearly remember my immediate response. I looked at him in complete disbelief.

“Teach people like me? No chance!” I said.

“No, not people like you, teach primary aged children. There is a distinct shortage of musically trained teachers in primary schools. Just think about it.”

I didn’t realise it at the time that he was handing me the way of escape from so many things; and methods of escape I would employ for the rest of my life.

You see, at that moment in time, I didn’t have the qualifications to secure a place on the course, not only did I need two A Levels, I needed to have attained Grade 8 Piano. I was only Grade 5.

I took the prospectus home to read. I remember it looked so exciting but daunting, way beyond my self-perceived capabilities. I’d settled to the fact that I might go into some kind of secretarial work. To get myself on a teaching course at Bretton seemed way beyond me. It certainly wasn’t going to be easy, not in any way. There were several hurdles to overcome.

Firstly, I had to speak to mum and dad; hurdle number one. Mum didn’t want me to move away from home and she didn’t think they could afford it any way. I was already taking extra years at school by staying on into the Sixth Form and they needed me earning.

Dad thought it was beyond me and that if I did train as a teacher, I would consider myself above them and the rest of the family.

It took much negotiation on the part of my teachers, and particularly my music teacher to convince my parents that they should allow me to at least apply and that they could put in for a grant so that it wouldn’t cost them. I promised to work every Saturday, weekend and holidays to make up the difference so that I wouldn’t put an extra burden upon them.

Eventually, I was allowed to put in an application. But I was still short of that necessary Grade 8 Piano qualification. My music teacher immediately put me in for Grade 6. I had to put 100% effort and more into my practice and also into the theory of music exams. I passed. He immediately entered me for Grade 7. In the space of twelve months my music teacher took me through Grades 6, 7 and 8. Playing the piano became obsessive. Practice became a means of escape. I had to concentrate and I had to play continually. I found myself pushing to my limits. This would be a way I would manage stressful situations for a lifetime.

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