Saturday, December 16, 2006

Two Girls, a Futon, Fulham and a Fake Piano

Last Sunday I lured Connie Vanderlay across London with the promise of a real, glass-topped piano to play...

I had visions of a leisurely evening spent lounging against a baby grand, in a subterranean piano bar in Kensington, gently crooning away while Connie tickled the keys.

I really should have known better.

First off, Connie discovered that the carol service she'd been roped into singing for at the 'city of london' cemetery was not actually in the city of london at all, but out in the farthest reaches of suburbia somewhere halfway to Norwich. This was, however, only the beginning of her epic voyage.

I offered Connie my futon for her new flat (I did remember to ask Beloved first, although he may have been asleep at the time. However, since we're planning on buying a sofa anyway I thought it might be a useful incentive to spur us into DFI action (oh god, no...) if we had to sit on a pile of cushions on the floor for a month.) We managed to disassemble the thing and get it into the back of my trusty micra (yeah, the vintage Mercedes is still on order...) but little did we know as we pootled off that this was only the beginning of our troubles.

An hour and a half later we were inching our way along the embankment, wondering if we were still going to have time to rehearse on the Grand piano in Connie's current crashpad (I think she sleeps underneath it). An hour after that we were wondering if we were ever going to get out of the car again, or were in fact doomed to circulate the streets of west london at the speed of a small toddler for the rest of our natural lives.

When Beloved announced he was going down the pub to watch Arsenal play Chelsea, and Connie invited me over to Fulham to practise a few numbers, I hadn't connected the two things in my head. It took two roadblocks, and hordes of men pouring onto the streets of Fulham at 5pm to make the penny drop.

Well we're girls, protested Connie, we're not supposed to know when and where there's a football match on. I agree - I also don't think otherworldly jazzers such as ourselves should be required to actually drive our own vehicles either. In fact, a helicopter was the only real option in traffic like that.

Oh but were our woes over when we finally parked up? Oh no. All we had to do then was carry the futon down the entire length of the street. And of course it was raining. And of course I was wearing a pair of vintage red stillettos ready for our appearance that evening. The sight of me tottering down a chichi Fulham street lugging a great big cotton mattress was, I'm sure hilarious, if you weren't actually trying to do it. I had to keep stopping to rest the thing on garden walls while I tried to get a better grip, and in the end I just gave up and waited for Connie to come and pick up the other end. Which of course involved narrowly avoiding dropping the whole thing in a great big puddle.

We finally get the thing inside and Connie says, "You've smudged your beauty spot." Sure enough it was halfway down my face. Not a great look, unless you're Courtney Love. There was barely time for emergency facial repairs and a swift glance at the shiny grand piano before we were out the door again and back on the road to Kensington. Thankfully that bit of the journey was uneventful, but when we trot downstairs into the piano bar, Connie's ears prick up suspiciously and she says "that doesn't sound like a real piano." Maybe it's just badly amplified, I suggest?

But when we get off stage after knocking out a couple of cheeky numbers, Connie is radiating outrage from every pore.

"It's a casio keyboard!"

The glass-topped piano is nothing but an empty shell, and they've stuck a keyboard inside the frame instead.

Connie goes on a ten minute rant about how promising a pianist a piano and then giving them a keyboard and thinking it's the same thing is like offering someone a cordon bleu meal and then serving them bits of plasticine and expecting them to eat it. I'm feeling a bit embarrassed, mainly because I can't believe I did a gig there before and never even noticed the piano was a fake.

The truth came out last Thursday at a glitterati party for 'members of the cabaret and burlesque community', when the piano bar's regular pianist explained that when one of the piano's strings broke in the summer, instead of replacing one string, the venue got rid of it and stuck a keyboard in instead.

The barbarians.

But at least I can feel a bit better in the knowledge that last time I sang there it was to the accompaniment of a real piano, and my musical ear is not as insensitive as I feared.

I think I might have to find Connie somewhere else to play piano though. There must be a piano bar somewhere in London that actually has one with strings...



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