The jazz age (1)
It began harmlessly, at first. Not with a sports car or a clumsy affair, but with little things; a battered record player, some dog-eared biographies in his garage, some posters blu-tacked to the wall.
And the day after the large parcel arrived, the noises in the garage began.
Mum was obviously beside herself. She’d read about women whose husbands had stumbled into this sort of thing after watching a John Coltrane documentary, or reading an article about keeping your mind active after retirement. She just hadn’t expected it to happen to Dad.
He’d always been so sensible; his garage a place of reassuring practicalities - spades, rat poison, wellies, broken anti-prowler lights. Not cigarette smoke and intimate lighting and husky jazz.
She certainly hadn’t expected the saxophone lessons. None of us had. We didn’t think it would get that far.
We were sitting in the kitchen listening to Dad falter through the first 3 bars of The Girl from Ipanema again when mum finally broke. She dropped her head into her hands.
“I thought we’d be like those lovely normal couples, spending our retirement at the beach, watching seagulls” she wailed. “Now he wants to take me to ‘gigs’ in basements full of emaciated twenty-somethings. I don’t deserve this! Yesterday he was talking about ‘syncopation’ - is it something he’ll want to...do?
“Sounds weird.” I agreed “I’ll talk to him”.
I took my tea with me. In the garage Dad was sweating profusely over his saxophone. He startled when I put my hand on his shoulder.
“Hello love” he gasped “Everything ok?”
“Dad.” I sat down and looked at him. “What’s this all about?”
“What do you mean?” he said, shiftily.
“All this. You know. The - jazz…?”
“Oh well. I’ve always liked the old, uh, and now I’ve got a bit of time on my hands I thought, well why not? Eh?”
He didn’t meet my gaze.
“Have you thought about what it’s doing to mum?” I asked “She’s very upset.”
“How do you mean upset? Your mother loves jazz. She told me so herself.”
“She said you were talking about syncopation. It frightened her.”
“Well she wasn’t frightened when we watched that chap doing it on telly, was she? No! Didn’t stop talking about him for a week!”
He was looking disgruntled now.
“Hold on” I said “Did you take up the saxophone because you think mum fancies John Coltrane?”
“Well she started going on about what it must have been like to live fast and die young and all that. We were always very - conservative - just bought a house, had a family, you know? To be honest, I’d rather be watching the seagulls at the beach, but your mother? Well, she’s got different ideas. I need to show her a good time. Don’t want her to get fed up with me, do I?”
“I think” I said, standing up “ you should come in for a cup of tea and a chat. She might surprise you. Oh, and bring your bird book.”