Wednesday, 25 February 2009



Arthur had told me that, if I wanted to give up work and be at home, he would be quite happy with the arrangement. So, with a heavy heart and mixed feelings, I handed in my notice. There were lots of tears on the day I left. I really was very happy at the old ‘Angel Madhouse’, as it was affectionately known, and probably would not have left it if it hadn’t been for the move to Dalston.
I didn’t make a bad decision, as it happened. My suspicions turned out to be right. The angel Warehouse became very impersonal, as I had predicted.
That summer, Miss ‘D’ went somewhere out east to an expensive and very hot resort for her annual holiday. There she suffered a stroke and died. This was a terrible shock to the girls. Although Miss ’D’ had been Company Secretary, she was always a good friend to all the female staff, whom she treated as her equals.
Doreen left to have a baby and, now that she, and Miss ‘D’ had gone, there was no reason to keep in touch. I often think of all the ‘inmates’ and occasionally look at their photographs, wondering where they are, how they are, and even if they are all still alive. They were happy, happy days.
Our house in St Paul’s Road was divided into three flats. A married couple were living on the ground floor, though we never really got to know them, and a young married couple were on the floor above us. They had a baby boy.
One day the couple on the ground floor vacated their two-roomed flat and we asked the agent if we could take it over. As it included the basement, that had two further rooms that were never used, we had ideas about getting a kitchen at last. The agent agreed that we could move downstairs.
As we were not actually moving house, Arthur and I decided that, with a little help from Dad and Doug (my brother), we could move our furniture piecemeal down the stairs ourselves. We thought this would be an easy job. We moved everything straight down into the relevant rooms, thereby positioning everything roughly where we wanted it to stay. The really heavy furniture such as the wardrobes, sideboard and bed, Arthur, Dad and Doug could man-hand between them, with me yelling out the appropriate encouragement like: Mind what you’re doing!’ and ‘Be careful you don’t scratch my table top!’ and, occasionally, ‘I don’t think that’s a good idea!’
Arthur and I had started moving the smaller things on Friday evening and it was now Saturday morning and time to get stuck in with the large items.
Everything went well for a while, and then it was time for the piano to be shifted. Originally professional piano movers had transported it from my mother-in-law’s house to ours. We had been amazed at the alacrity and ease with which they sped up two flights of stairs; the piano balanced on one man’s back while two others steadied things. Oh how very stupid we were to mistake professional artistry and experience for something that appeared to be the proverbial piece of cake!
We had already stripped the top, front, and lid from the piano to make it easier for them to handle, and all went well from the lounge to the bottom of the first flight of stairs. It was when the men were negotiating the 180-degree bend between the two flights of stairs that the house demolition started.
Somehow, the piano slipped, and one corner began deftly to push out, one by one, the banister rails that blocked its way. Suddenly it stopped. Completely jammed. With much yelling and grabbing, the three men tried to pull the piano out from amongst the banister rails, only to firmly drive the opposite corner of the piano into and through the plaster on the stairway wall.
It was at this point that the couple upstairs, (Joyce and Wally) and their small son descended from the top floor flat. Their path was of course blocked very firmly by three grunting, puffing men, one slightly hysterical me, and an upright piano that was wedged, it seemed forever, across the stairs between the wall and the banisters!
Wally, with a look of chagrin said: ‘We really do need to get to the front door. Actually, we’re on our way to a family wedding’. It was only then that I realized Wally was dressed in a smart, navy suit, complete with a floral buttonhole, and that Joyce was wearing a resplendent hat trimmed with an equally resplendent floral arrangement! Oh my God! They really were dressed for, and on their way to, a wedding. Joyce and her little boy retreated a few steps up towards her kitchen door, and Wally, realizing that he really didn’t have any other option, if he was to make the wedding at all, said: “Come on, I’ll give you a hand”
The men in unison, and now numbering four, managed to get the piano back in a straight line pointing down the stairs, but there still was no way they could make it turn the bend, try as they might. By this time, Wally’s beautiful, smart, navy-blue, wedding suit was covered in white plaster dust. His face was sweaty and his hair dishevelled. The rest of us were beginning to feel rather embarrassed when Doug’s’ face suddenly lit up, as in idea struck him. Had I known the outcome of his idea, I’d have probably struck him too! “Let’s turn the piano upside down,” he said, “so that the wide keyboard area is over the top of the handrail, then the narrower base will easily make the bend in the landing”
This was hailed by the others as a brilliant, “why didn’t we think of it earlier” idea. With more grunts and shouts of “one, two, three, over”, they turned the instrument, which had been our pride and joy, upside down … and all the keys fell out! With a discordant, clattering sound, they tumbled down the stairwell and into the quarry tiled entrance hall below.
Alas! This was to be the swan song of our beloved pianoforte because, although the keys could have been put back, there was also extensive damage to the hammers.
Wally and Joyce finally made their way, brushed and re-groomed, to their wedding celebrations, and our beautiful piano, that had been handed down from the last generation, was dragged unceremoniously into the back garden. There, sadly, it was hammered, hacked, and chopped into pieces small enough to dispose of. If any of you have ever attended a piano-smashing event at a local garden fete or County Fair, you will know just how difficult and very, very noisy this act is!


Beetle said...

It doesn't matter how many times I hear this story I still laugh as I picture it. I surprised that they didn't realize that turning a piano upside down was NOT a good idea. Let's face it, trying to take a piano down two flights of stairs was not a good idea though :O)

weechuff said...

This story does make me laugh, but it must have been quite worrying at the time! But it is a typical story of our family. We would have a go at anything:0)

granny grimble said...

I know I've told this piano story before, but I thought there would be new readers who hadn't heard it. Like you say it still makes a person laugh - even me!! So silly you'd think it wasn't true, but it was - 100%.


I agree with you. I bet there isn't one person in our family who couldn't tell a similar tale. In our youth we were quite mad!

Swubird said...


Funny story. I've never been to a piano-smashing event, but I nearly lost a piano one time. We moved from an upstairs apartment to a house and, when the movers were trying to manage the piano down the steep stairs, they almost dropped it into the swimming pool. Yikes!

I also remember when my Queen left all of her "inmates" behind. It was just in the nick of time. The entire office was transferred to another location several miles from our home.

Isn't life interesting?

Happy trails.

GoldAnne said...

soo funny Leeta but sad to the poor piano demised that way lol
love anne

Jay said...

Hahahahaahahahahaha! *Snort*

So sorry - I doubt it was remotely funny at the time, probably very painful for all concerned, both physically and emotionally, but the way you tell it is hilarious!

"'Right', said Fred, 'Have to take the wall down. That there wall is gonna haveta go!'"


"Mind what you’re doing!’ and ‘Be careful you don’t scratch my table top!’ and, occasionally, ‘I don’t think that’s a good idea!’"

I could absolutely see and hear that happening!

granny grimble said...


How grand to have a swimming pool to drop a piano in to! Much more spectacular than a stair well. It would have made quite a splash! Just think, you could have fished it out and played 'Raindrops keep falling on my Head' !


How nice to have you back Anne. It was a bit sad at the time (hilarious later) but we replaced it eventually.


When this tale was originally told in my book, the chapter heading was 'Right said Fred' Two minds eh?
Life is such fun when you are young and learning. Nowadays I would probably have had a heart attack at seeing my furniture so manhandled! This must have happened at least 56 years ago, and it still makes me laugh.