by an accordionist
In my heyday when I was very young my cherished ambitions were of someday achieving stardom and fortune – and not in the too far distant future either. To me the only way to "make it" was as an actress on the great stages of the world, where I had visions of performing to packed houses of awestruck audiences with standing ovations, rave reviews, multitudes of flowers and with my path strewn with admirers. I was to appear in La Scala, Covent Garden and Carnegie Hall, and as the ultimate denouement to a long and glittering career I would achieve glory on the stage of the Sydney Opera House. Or so I hoped.
I had to start somewhere and opportunity knocked in the form of the school pantomime. The script had been written by our deputy principal, who was also the casting director, and it was called: "Beauty Meets The Incredible Hulk." I thought, "Wow! Terrific! That sounds like an auspicious beginning," and immediately auditioned for the part of an ugly sister. I won the part of Salmonella, beating off 16 other aspiring actresses for the honour. I fell easily into the exciting whirl of rehearsals and classes that followed – schoolwork came a distant second – and the role came easily to me. On stage I had a commanding presence, and I was spiteful and haughty like no other.
A few days later, doom struck. The main characters were assembled in the dressing room backstage when the door opened... ominously. We beheld the form of the diminutive music teacher-come-musical director, before whom all habitually bowed and scraped. She entered the room with a terrible step, drew herself up to her full fearsome height of 4 foot 10 inches and delivered my burgeoning career a crushing blow. "She cannot have the part, we need her in the orchestra," was her brutal edict. I kept silent, smugly assuming the casting director would quell and subdue her – but no! He cowered before her – all 6 foot 3 inches of him! Let me tell you never to leave deputy principals to do your pleading for you – they lack the fortitude! In horror, agony and despair I was cast to the pit, where I languished inharmoniously and pined discordantly. I was consoled only by the thought that my day was yet to come.
I thought it had arrived two years later when I gatecrashed my way into the seventh form Arts Club at school by winning the part of a witch in Shakespeare's MacBeth. I won it partly on the strength of my looks – my long hair, which reached all the way down my back, was black and shiny as the wing of a rather albino raven and my eyes were as tragic as suppressed laughter would allow. I was, however, long and skinny, and somehow managed to exude the required amount of brooding malevolence. Hope and excitement reigned supreme and my dream was alive again as I "Double, double, toil and troubled," my way through the next few weeks, nurturing wrinkles on my brow, eating liquorice to make my teeth black and practising my cackle.
Alas and alack, was my dream never to be? The play was cancelled due to lack of interest. How was I to achieve fame and social brilliance if I couldn't even make opening night? I was thwarted and inconsolable. My hopes had been dashed to the ground and kicked in the teeth. I carefully picked up the shattered remnants of my dream and tucked them away in mothballs.
That summer there entered into my gloom and despondency an invitation from a friend to spend a week camping at her grandfather's private beach on the Coromandel peninsula. I was in practise for an Arts festival, in which I was entered as an open solo competitor, but I went anyway. After hours of driving, then travelling on back-country roads, and bumping through native bush for a mile in a four-wheel drive vehicle – this place was very secluded – we arrived at the idyllic, unspoilt spot. Then came healing, halcyon days. It is hard to stay gloomy and despondent when you're laughing, frolicking, swimming, rowing and having fun on a small beach, all to yourselves, and I didn't quite manage it.
New Years day dawned and the Arts festival was only a week away. I sighed and heaved my accordion up the bush track to the top of a small cliff whose face opened to the sea. This cliff was at the centre of a small cove whose bush-clad walls rose up and curved around, and all combined to make a large and acoustically wonderful natural amphitheatre. I sat up there and played to the sea. The piece I was practising was the ten minute long 'Trieste Overture' by Frosini. When I finished I was met with thunderous applause! While I had been wrapped up in the final movement – the Vivace – I was totally oblivious to the seven boats, four canoes, two windsurfers and waveskier that had appeared and parked at the bottom of the cliff. So with my final flourish I opened my eyes, and as the echo died away I was met with cheering and clapping from the erstwhile empty seascape!
It dawned on me then that my debut had just crept up and pounced on me, and – although it was a far cry from the Sydney Opera House – the ovation was just as sweet, as I savoured my moment of fame.
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