I let go of the sun’s rays and the light went out of me. If only that lovely girl could have chosen me. I just knew she was right for me. All of the next day, I was in the window again, but nobody asked to try me. I felt dull, grey. The sun must have been behind clouds as there didn’t seem to be any light to play with. I dozed fitfully. Lucy’s voice woke me from a troubled dream. ‘Mum? See! She’s still there!’
The shop owner, Pudgy-Fingers, picked me up again. New as I was to the world, it was disorienting to be swung around, flipped suddenly horizontally instead of vertically. Pudgy-Fingers placed me down on a velvet cloth with some other flutes.
‘You can try all of these,’ he said.
‘I don’t need to…thank you. I already know which one I’d like,’ said Lucy.
She looked again at my engraving. Her face was so close I could feel her breath clouding my surface. ‘Pearly,’ she whispered. Gentle hands picked me up and cradled me. I could tell she did not know how to play. But she tried. I tried my hardest to make a sound for her, but without the breath going in the right direction it was nigh on impossible.
‘Don’t worry,’ said her mother’s voice. ‘You need a teacher, that’s all.’
‘Can I start today, Mum?’ she pleaded.
‘It’s already late. Maybe tomorrow.’
I was pulled apart and put into my case. I was carried, swung slightly. I felt rumbling beneath me, crude vibrations. I was scared, but felt reassured that Lucy was near. I could pick up, muffled through my case, her eager chatter.
I loved being at Lucy’s house. It was calm. Lucy took me out, slotted me wonkily together and left me out, balanced on my case, all night. The next morning, very early, so it was still almost dark, I awoke to high and joyful chirpy noises outside. A fascinating crescendo of sound bathed my whole being. I listened and learned in wonder, as strengthening light and fragrant air poured in upon me through tall windows.
That day, I was taken out in what I knew by then was a car, for us to have our first lesson with Lucy’s new teacher, Silvia. The first thing Silvia said to Lucy was ‘Oh, what a lovely flute! Gorgeous, isn’t she?’
I always liked Silvia after that. Also, she helped Lucy to progress quickly, and that was good, as I wanted to play interesting things. She showed Lucy how to slot me together correctly and adjust me. She had Lucy stand up tall and straight and taught her how to hold me so that my head-joint was locked securely against her chin, with the little finger of her right hand pushing forwards like a lever, and the side of her left index pushing back. Silvia demonstrated on her own flute how to play a long B. As the note sounded, I heard, ‘Bonjour, my friend! Enchantée! Je m’appelle Madame Douce.’
Silvia’s flute was quite old and from a place called France, the other side of the big water, she told me. Her tone was very sweet and gentle. She was my guide, as we played a lot of things together to help Lucy.
Lucy learnt the notes B, A and G first. She had to play lots of long notes to increase her lung capacity. At first she would let air escape too fast so she could only manage one second, but she quickly learnt to play more quietly and control the air-flow. She could do three, then four seconds, but within a few weeks Silvia was timing her for eight seconds, then ten, then twelve. At first our sound quavered and was uneven, but quickly it became steadier. After about four lessons, we could already play ‘Hot Cross Buns,’ ‘Au Clair de la Lune,’ which Madame loved as it is French, and ‘Merrily’. This was all good…. except we played them all about fifty times. ‘Merrily’ goes, BAGABBB rest AAA rest BBB rest BAGABBB rest AABAG. I can do that off-by-heart for you any time! Seriously, my girl was hooked on that tune. I didn’t mind because by then I would have done anything for Lucy and I took comfort from the fact that every time she played it, she was improving.
Luckily Madame and Silvia taught us C and F so there were a few more tunes we could play. Lucy got hooked for a few weeks on ‘When All the Saints’. It’s a tricky one as, being in the key of F, there must be some B flats. If your player forgets to put his or her right index down to make the Bs flat, it sounds very odd. Whenever Lucy forgot the B flat, I would sort of shrink from the B natural to make it sound even odder than it was, to give her a clue. Eventually she got it.
About five or six weeks in, we hit a stumbling block: middle D. I so wanted Lucy to learn D, because I knew that as soon as she did, she would be off, as D leads into the easier middle octave where the fingerings are all the same as for the bottom octave. However, D is hard for a child to learn as it uses a lot of fingers. Beginners have quite weak fingers and can’t press our keys down hard enough. With the best will in the world, a flute can’t put its own keys down. To play D, every finger which is up for C goes down, including the left thumb. Every finger which is down for C goes up. This means going from C to D is a big change. D is the only note that you raise your little finger for. But after playing D, you have to put that little finger straight down again.
Lucy found it very hard. Her little finger did not have much strength in it as she was so little. She forgot to lever her hands properly to lock me against her chin, so every time she went from D back to C, I would slip as she took her thumb off the key. This made me nervous I was going to be dropped, which made my sound buzzy. Lucy cried often and couldn’t bring herself to play. She started inventing excuses to miss her lessons. I lay in my case feeling like I had failed, and panicking in case Lucy decided to give up. I sent out thought waves to her ‘Please, Lucy, don’t give up…give me another chance…please…pick me up…play something.’
But there I lay, for days and days, ignored. ‘Lucy,’ called her mother, ‘you must practise your flute!’
‘My fingers hurt,’ she wailed… ‘I can’t do D. I hate D. It’s….it’s just….TOO DIFFICULT.’