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Drowning not waving
1:30pm Friday 30th September 2011 in Sue Pycroft Column
MY husband’s playing guitar in public for the first time ever this weekend.
I say in public, but I actually mean in a small private room next to a pub, where only friends and family and A&R men from Atlantic or Island records who’ve got lost on the way to some students’ union gig will be allowed in.
To be honest, I’m really looking forward to it. Partly, of course, because it will be good to listen to his riffs in the context of the other band members’ efforts so that I can finally answer Fleetwood Mac when he asks “did you recognise that?”
But also because it will mark the end of the last month’s rehearsals. Day in, day out, our living room has hummed with the vibrations of a guitar played through a powerful amp. I’m not complaining, obviously. My son and I have learned to live with residual hearing loss.
The cat has demonstrated a hitherto unrevealed quality of self-reliance, by packing his own knapsack and slipping into boots after we ignored his pleas to be re-housed. And once you’ve tripped over loose cables and unattended guitar stands two or three times, you soon learn to fall safely.
No, it’s not the practice sessions at home that have been the issue. It’s the rehearsals after work.
For some reason, it is a universal truth that a man in possession of a couple of electric guitars and two amps cannot leave them overnight in the office.
So the man’s groupie, or wife as I sometimes prefer to be known, has to make herself and the band truck, or 1996 Audi saloon as it prefers to be known, available morning and evening to take the budding rock star and his gear down to the railway station and back. As the date of the gig draws nearer, the line on the graph – where Axis X is the required number of days of office rehearsals a week and Axis Y is the length of each rehearsal – becomes, er, steeper or curvier or darker or whatever it would be that graphically denotes that I’m feeling utterly superfluous and invisible, except for when I’m ferrying him back and fore to catch the train.
It’s also never clear how long each rehearsal will last. So instead of coming home, pouring myself a drink and vegetating, I wait for the call to say he’s due in in 20 minutes. No point in settling into to a nice bath if I have to wash off the mud pack and morph into a rock chick before the mud’s even dry.
Tonight, though, I think I’ve finally got it sorted. He may not be home until 10.30pm because we’re almost at dress rehearsal point.
So we’ve agreed. He’ll get a cab up, and I’m going to watch the episode of Doc Martin I missed on Monday. And (we haven’t agreed this) while I’m doing that I’m going to eat Tesco’s Finest chips, which are to die for, and scampi and open a bottle of sauvignon blanc.
We’re 40 minutes and half a tray full of chips into the doc when I hear the front door open. I look at my son and he shrugs. This is the first programme I will have seen all the way through in the last week.
I stare at the Cornwall village scene on the screen and eat some more chips quickly. The living room door opens behind us and I hear my husband and several pieces of equipment enter with some difficulty.
“That went well,” says a disembodied voice. “We finished earlier than I thought.”
Don’t encourage him, says the look I shoot our son.
“Hello, I’m home…” says the voice, sounding puzzled.
Honestly, at this point it would be so easy to lose the plot. My gaze remains fixed on the telly. My fork continues to shovel in chips.
“Sorry, am I invisible or something?” says the voice, moving towards us.
Despite staring at the screen, I spot a movement near my plate. Instinctively, I stab at the hand that’s reaching for one of my chips with the fork.
“Ow, that’s my strumming hand!” he wails.
I keep staring ahead.
“Oh well,” I say, between chips.