Grade 1

It was T’s first guitar exam today. It took me back if I’m honest. Although I seem to remember crossing a huge floor clutching my music in a dramatic fashion, rather than sitting in someone’s living room – someone who judging by her cabinet has a penchant for Terry Pratchett novels. This is how they do it these days apparently.

She wanted to do Grade 1 and I didn’t see any harm. Until I found out how much it was. Then I noticed the significant upper cut to my finances. We paid for the exam, and the required music book. Then I found out it was in the middle of a working/school day. Brilliant. It also clashed with a school trip which was irritating but saved me £7.50 there – every cloud – but I’m still somewhat in deficit. It would have been even more money if she needed an accompanist (I’m rethinking P’s desire to play clarinet…).

We arrived at a terraced house in Sheffield nearly bursting into some poor boy’s violin exam by accident. We entered a room with about ten chairs in it (along with a table and cabinet full of Pratchett novels).

A lady bustled in and said “Right then. Get your instrument out and tune it.” A little optimistic surely for a 9 year old to tune her own guitar adequately. The woman bustled out of the room and someone’s dad said it sounded alright to him, which I took to be positive enough. I told Tilly I thought she should be warming up and another mum said she could go in the kitchen (which had a keyboard in it, as you do) and shut the door. A little harsh surely. She hadn’t even heard her play.

After a while the bustling lady reappeared and Tilly tried out a number of chairs in a style reminiscent of Goldilocks. The first one was too high. The second, well I pointed out that having wheels wasn’t a great plan. The third was actually a rocking stool. I can’t imagine that ever being useful especially during a music exam. She plumped for the too high one.

I had decided that the bustling lady was clearly something to do with the exam. She asked “Are we on pitch?” Tilly hadn’t got a clue what she was going on about and I lost myself for a moment imagining guitar playing in the goal at Bramall Lane.

Bustling lady, who still hadn’t actually introduced herself, then retrieved a tuning fork from her handbag. She told me she was once stopped at airport security for carrying it in her hand luggage.

The tuning process took quite some minutes and for once in my life I found myself wishing I’d brought the iPad with me to use an app.

Tilly was asked to play her pieces but was highly confused and started to wonder if she was being examined already. She was still sitting on the wheelie chair and it wasn’t helping her performance.

Eventually she went into the examiner and I had a nice chat with bustling woman. She asked me for help finding a postcode of (according to Zoopla) a very expensive house in Surrey. She recalled her own guitar exam experience from years ago. And she listened to her answer phone message – apparently her friend has a dentist appointment and can’t meet her for lunch this week. All the time I could hear Tilly playing, clapping and singing through the living room wall. Which presumably means Tilly knows all about her lunch plans too.

I asked how long the results would be and was told anywhere between 5 days and 6 weeks. I don’t even know where to begin with this statement.

Tilly was fine when she came out. She thinks she’s passed and wonders if we can go out for dinner if she gets full marks (she doesn’t think this is likely). I said we could go out to dinner whatever but the size of the ice cream is dependent on the mark she gets. She knows I’m joking.

So. Expensive, inconvenient, a bit bonkers. I wonder if we’ll have to do another one…

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