Thursday, 4 December 2008

Ambitions realised 2

Veronica came from a generation when female trombonists were the butt of unpleasant innuendo and whose career paths inevitably led to novelty bands and end of pier shows.
None-the-less the instrument mesmerised her with its gleaming brassy curves and the welling power of its mellifluous voice.

Her headmistress prevailed upon her father to pay for lessons. They were not well off. And while the other children walked home through the damp colliery town, Veronica would sit and strain to produce music with Mr Harvey, who once had played with the Northern Philharmonic.

Mr Harvey lent her an instrument to take home and sat patiently with her as her competence grew and the notes cascaded. He was worried that, like so many before, Veronica would allow boys to distract her. But Veronica seemed a homely sort, and fortunately for her vocation, quite plain. A trombone would offer her more fulfilment than a man any day.

Veronica worked hard and with Mr Harvey’s help found work playing for small ensembles on regional radio. From time to time she provided raucous crescendos for local comics and at other times contributed to fogbound recitals in Municipal Halls.

When Mr Harvey passed on, Veronica and several friends played a suitable medley in the Crematorium. As the curtain closed and Veronica packed her gleaming instrument away in its red plush, she felt a sense of the fitness of things. She was a fully fledged trombonist. She was earning a living. And Mr Harvey had made it happen.

Fifteen years later, during breaks from the end-of-the-pier show, she would stare into the night sea, sucking on a furtive Craven A and wonder whether Mr Harvey had ever had feelings for her. If he had, she was, on balance, grateful that he hadn’t made them known.

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