Sunday, October 29, 2017

M-M-M-My Clavinova...

I am utterly smitten. Not with the family starring in the video, although they are obviously adorable. I have totally fallen for my own Yamaha Clavinova CVP 709.  When I say it is awesome, I mean that literally. I am genuinely awed by its range, capability and knockout gorgeousness. It does all the things musically that I can't do, like play the drums and saxophone and pretend to be a string quartet. And, it is also completely empathetic. It responds to my touch like the best-ever lover. We are now making heavenly music together. The perfect partner, it completes me - or at least the musical part of me. It makes even my playing sound good.

It has been a while. I haven't had a piano for getting on for ten years and have been making do with a couple of vintage keyboards - a Casio CZ5000 and a Yamaha DX7. They're devilish cranky, but they're good old boys and I appreciate the effort they've put in for the last decade. It's not the same as playing a real piano. You communicate with a piano. A synth, you simply instruct. Although the Clavinova is not an organic instrument, it conjures such an authentic piano-playing experience that you quickly forget there are no actual strings and hammers inside that pretty case.

I left my baby grand behind in London, and for years I didn't miss playing. Then, a while back, I suddenly decided to rework a musical I'd written ages ago. It called to me, quite loudly and persistently as it goes. I have learned from experience that it's easier to go with the flow than to ignore the plaintive cries of a project desperate for attention. They don't stop, no matter how deep in the back of a cupboard you put the box file. Having said that, the hankering for a new instrument in my life did go back considerably further. A little over five years ago, I set up a special savings account and I've been putting $200 into it every month. At that stage, I didn't know what I would buy, only that it would be a digital piano.

An expensive outlay when you live a long way from the city can be extremely risky. I was wary of buying something so big and costly online. Typically in Australia, everything is hunky dory until someone presents you with a hand-basket and you have no alternative but to climb in and take the ride. That is by no means an irregular occurrence. I had more-or-less decided on the latest Clavinova. My friend Caroline happens to know the manager of a reputable city piano outlet, who also happens to be a Larrikin's End lad. Cory gave me a good price and it felt like at least there would be someone to connect with should a hand-basket suddenly appear. So I put in the order.

Now that my Clavinova is all settled in and we're cuddly cosy, I must report that the courtship didn't go quite as smoothly here at Seat of Pants as it did for the charming Sharma family. For a start, their box does seem to be indoors when they conduct their opening ceremony. Now, I like to think of myself as a reasonably good contingency planner. Some might even describe me as a catastrophiser. Never in my wildest scenario-outlining dreams would it have occurred to me to ask a reputable big-city piano peddlar,

By 'delivery', you do mean that you will arrange for someone to put my new piano in my actual house, don't you?

See where this is going? I have had a baby grand piano carted up and down four flights of stairs, a couple of times. And I've become conditioned to the idea that a piano merchant knows how to put a piano in a dwelling. In fact, knows that, unless you live in New Orleans, pianos belong indoors.

I can buy a $50 case of wine from an auction house where they sell hundreds of these every single day. And that company will 1) send me an email when it is dispatched; 2) send another email to let me know that it will be delivered the next day; 3) send a further email and a text message on the morning of delivery; and 4) send a final email to let me know that it has been delivered. If I were seriously anal and had nothing better to do, I could even track its progress on my phone.

Last Tuesday, a truck rolled into my driveway, completely without warning. In it was my piano. No dispatch email, phone call or text. A man got out, opened the back of the truck, scratched his head and said,

Package for ya. Some big Yamaha thing. Dunno how we're gonna get it out.

We? You seem to be alone, and unless I've body-morphed during the night, I am the customer and not your colleague. The CVP 709 in its box weighs 130 kilos. Granted, it was in a cardboard carton but this is not what I would call 'a package'. It was sitting on a pallet so had been put onto the truck with a forklift, and yet, a man arrived to take it off the truck with no equipment other than a trolley. The back of the truck didn't even have a hydraulic lift. More head scratching.

I might be able to get it off the truck.

So, my $10,000 piano was to be dropped onto my driveway is if it were a load of bricks? I don't think so. It had rained. It was likely to rain some more. Pianos tend not to like rain terribly much. When they're jammed full of electronics? Even less so. There followed a conversation about what a bastard the boss was and how he wasn't ever going to send two people. This is a delivery company that local people wouldn't  choose to use. As the hand-basket hovered overhead, I called the piano vendor. Cory was on holiday so I spoke to Jason, who said to leave it with him. I sent the driver off, with my Clavinova in the back of his white van.

There followed a protracted negotiation. 

Cory didn't mention the access issues.
Access issues?
Yes, there are half a dozen stairs to my front door. Twelve feet from the truck to the stairs. Six stairs. A couple more feet to get it to its designated spot.
Leave it with me.

And exactly why Cory, who grew up here, had not remembered that Larrikin's End is a seaside town on top of a hill where the higher up you go the better the view and that is likely to mean stairs! is completely beyond me. Heigh-ho. It was finally delivered on Thursday. The same man arrived in the same truck. This time, he had roped in 'a mate' to help him. The 'mate' arrived separately in his own vehicle. Both were wearing hi-vis shirts. A good sign. They managed to get it off the truck but then decided that they still couldn't carry it up the stairs (insert double exclamation mark here). Luckily, they agreed to unpack it there on my driveway and take the pieces in separately, something that the driver had previously refused to do. The keyboard section weighs 80 kilos. My pallet-of-bricks scenario was narrowly averted. And it had stopped raining. Hurrah!

So, now all of it was indoors -  albeit in bits - but they were in the right places. That turned out to be fortuitous. Caroline and her husband Bruce had already agreed to help me put it together, an operation that we were assured was simple and could be undertaken by a couple of gals to use Cory's exact words. Given the experience to date, contingency-planner me went into overdrive. I read the assembly instructions through a couple of times. Some processes seemed ambiguous. Possibly that was just me. So I looked online for a YouTube tutorial. Which is how I found Vikram and family. There's a second part to that video which I'm sure you'll also find amusing. Their Clavinova is already assembled, and they're all taking pictures of it. Hilarious. But, I still wasn't clear on how mine would go together as I couldn't find a video of anyone actually doing it.

Bruce is a big strong farmer and Caroline is a retired GP. Bruce was sure that the three of us could lift the 80-kilo main keyboard section. We successfully tipped it onto its front as instructed so that the other parts could be fitted. Bruce also found the instructions somewhat confusing but worked it out, eventually. Once he had attached the legs and the pedals, we were ready to try righting it. No go. With Bruce on one side and Caroline and me on the other, the three of us could not budge it. Bruce revisited the manual. Was there a method? No. Just a helpful picture of the Clavinova lying down, an arrow and an overlay picture of it standing upright. Hey Presto! Bruce commented that every second line in the manual reads,

Caution: Be careful not to pinch your fingers.

We don't need to worry about fingers, I said, one of us is a doctor! I'm worried about breaking its legs off.

As we speculated about whether or not applying our car jacks would be appropriate, a giant hand-basket filled the room. And then Caroline had a bright idea,
Is there someone we could call?
Oh, please let there be another Bruce in that phone.

As the thing I'd saved for for five years lay prone on the floor with its legs pointing out instead of down, and I prepared to board the hand-basket, Caroline phoned Roy, another local farmer. Got his voicemail. She and Bruce ran down names of other possibles and then Caroline's phone rang. It was Roy. Caroline accidentally hung up on him. It's the sort of thing I do all the time but somehow I just didn't believe someone as competent as Caroline would be capable of such a thing. That's me you see waving from the hand-basket. Caroline phoned again. Roy answered.Yes, he was around and would be pleased to help.

While we were waiting for him, I showed Caroline and Bruce Vikram's video. It broke the tension. Bruce and Roy stood on either side of The Beast, as I now call it. Caroline and I each wedged a foot against one of its front legs. Although it was sitting on a thick rug, Bruce thought it advisable that we do that to avoid any possibility of it slipping as they lifted. With one huge heave, two strong farmers hauled it onto its feet. I plugged it in, switched it on and gave a short recital. Then we all had coffee and cake, as it was my birthday. The hand-basket drifted off to haunt someone else.

Twenty-four hours later and after an extremely rocky start, romance is in full bloom. Love conquers all - even a week of the worst kind of Aussie idiocy. Hooray for love!