by Bron | May 2, 2013 9:14 am
Sit back. I’m going to tell you a story about Mrs Nock.
The reason I tell it now is because she died last week. Not in a tragic-screaming-car-crash-murder-suicide-death-plunge way. Simply because she was old. And even by today’s standards, when you’re in your 90s you’re old.
Sure, you can be sprightly. Agile. Active. But you’re still old.
So it’s not a sad death story. Pop those tissues back in your purse. But it brought back many memories.
Mrs Nock was my piano teacher. My parents were those vigilant breed of parents who drilled my brothers and me in table manners, made us do chores, and enrolled us in all manner of things like Sunday School, girl guides, boy scouts, and music lessons.
Now the Sunday School bit was all right. We grew up in the Wynnum-Manly area so the kids we went to school with were the kids we went to girl guides with, and were the kids we went to Sunday School with. They were also the kids we played with after school.
On the weekends, my brothers and I would get on our bikes, grab the dog and head off down the street to meet our friends with our mum hollering after us, “Just make sure you’re home when the street lights come on!” She knew we would be safe. We didn’t know that we couldn’t be anything but safe. 1974 was a wonderful time to be eight years old.
The only time I became obstinate, belligerent and uncooperative was when the piano was involved.
I hated the bloody piano. Ergo I hated Mrs Nock.
Twice a week, Dad would drive me the three blocks to her house, drop me off, and go back home to watch Bellbird with Mum, arriving back 30 minutes later to collect me.
During those 30 minutes, I would unimaginatively bash these poor ivory keys, making Chopin, Bach and Liberace collectively turn in their graves. Well, I think Liberace was still alive back then, but you know what I mean.
Scales and more sodding scales. Mrs Nock loved scales. Middle C, F sharp and B bloody flat. Scales have the sex appeal of a dial tone. It went on for years. In 1978 I took Mrs Nock the sheet music for Kermit’s Rainbow Connection that I’d lovingly saved up for and purchased from Palings in the city. She gently put it aside, placed Mendelssohn in front of me, and that was that. Sorry Kermit.
If that wasn’t torture enough, she’d then turn on the metronome. Now, a metronome can actually make a dial tone sound sexy. It could give you a migraine. It would smile at me from the top of the piano, like a mother-in-law in a divorce court, and keep clacking away.
Such was Mrs Nock’s enthusiasm for her piano, she would train up mobs of us to play trios and enter us in all manner of frightful events like eisteddfods and charity concerts and telethons. She’d dress us in her favourite colours of lilac and pale blue and conduct away while I sat squashed in the middle trying to play my bits without stabbing anyone in the heart.
Adulthood and moving out of home at 18 solved the Mrs Nock/piano problem. That is, until my mother effusively gave me the piano, and I spent the next 20 years dragging it all over Brisbane at great expense every time I moved house. I finally got over my Mrs Nock/piano guilt and sold it.
And adulthood, as it is prone to do, also gave me a fresh perspective on Mrs Nock. Because it is the little things that as kids you never notice that become points of awareness when you’ve grow up.
Here’s what I mean. My lesson started at 7pm, and at 7.05pm each time, Mr Nock would come into the music room to bring his wife a cup of tea. He would then return to the kitchen and continue washing the dishes (I could hear him, even over my scales). At 7.20pm he would retrieve Mrs Nock’s tea cup and go wash that up as well.
In addition to home tuition, Mrs Nock also taught at Brisbane’s Grammar Schools, became a trained cathedral organist and got herself three university degrees. And had some kids of her own. She didn’t drive, nor was she particularly partial to public transport, so it was Mr Nock’s job to ferry her to her various commitments and back.
I’m not even sure that she cooked, cleaned or ironed either. Mr Nock was often spied folding a bit of washing in the lounge room while he watched Bellbird at night.
She’d read about a concert, or hear that some bods from Trinity College would be in town, and it was game on. Gangs of us practicing all over place, getting special pieces ready to perform. She’d garner extra support from a xylophone or a drum, and we were a veritable amateur orchestra.
Single-minded, determined, forthright. A woman who knew what she wanted and wasn’t afraid of going after it. That was Mrs Nock.
2013 is an era where women pursuing their goals and reaping rewards from their passions and making strong choices about the person they want to be are as commonplace as wifi and cheap wine. But in 1974, it was really only just starting.
Yet there was Mrs Nock forging ahead with her plans, dream and talents and not bothered in the slightest by societal conforms or neighbourhood perceptions. And it seemed that neither was her perfect partner Mr Nock, who faithfully brought her tea and kept the car filled with petrol so he could assist his fabulous wife.
I think there’s something in that for all of us. Don’t you?
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