Reading at the Botanics: ‘Piano’

Find out what’s been going on in our sessions as one of our participants shares news from their group.


Reading at the Botanics: ‘Piano’


Mairi Marlborough is a participant in our shared reading group at the Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh. She is also a Lead Reader who leads shared reading sessions with our Open Door group in Morningside.


I pressed the Leave button on the screen to exit the weekly meeting with the Open Book group, feeling contented after a good hour of reading and chat. When we started to meet over Zoom during the first lockdown, I thought that these virtual sessions were a poor substitute for the Thursday meetings in the beautiful Botanics cottage, where the group took it in turn to read aloud short stories and poems and then discuss them, accompanied by coffee and delicious home baking. Now we have all got used to Zoom meetings and it is hard to believe that it has been almost a year since we have met in the flesh. Being able to continue the regular contact with other keen readers has been a lifesaver during this miserable Covid time.


Today’s session was especially enjoyable, and I printed off the last poem we read, as it was one that I had particularly enjoyed – well, actually, it made me cry and that is always a sign of a good poem or story for me. Why is it that certain words cause my eyes to water? I can’t explain the tears that arise unbidden and spill out, a problem I have had ever since I was a youngster. My parents and sister used to tease me when, every weekend without fail, I cried at the story in the Sunday Post. At least with Zoom I can conceal my sobs from the other members of the Open Book Group – the mute and camera off buttons are very handy!


I switched off the computer and took the printed poem through to the kitchen to savour again with a cup of coffee, thinking that it was a pity that Zoom couldn’t provide a tasty bit of home baking to accompany it.


Today the poem would have to suffice. It is by DH Lawrence and entitled ‘Piano’.

Softly, in the dusk, a woman is singing to me;

Taking me back down the vista of years, till I see

A child sitting under the piano, in the boom of the tingling strings

And pressing the small, poised feet of a mother who smiles as she sings.

In spite of myself, the insidious mastery of song

Betrays me back, till the heart of me weeps to belong

To the old Sunday evenings at home, with winter outside

And hymns in the cosy parlour, the tinkling piano our guide.

So now it is vain for the singer to burst into clamour

With the great black piano appassionato. The glamour

Of childish days is upon me, my manhood is cast

Down in the flood of remembrance, I weep like a child for the past.

The last lines of the poem – ‘the glamour of childish days is upon me… in the flood of remembrance I weep like a child for the past’ were the ones that made the tears well up during the session. The group remembered long forgotten piano teachers and lessons, the room that was kept for good (maybe not such a cosy parlour!), listening to the radiogram, watching Sunday serials and the Forsyte Saga on old black and white televisions.


Sharing memories with others on Zoom is so important at this time – and I am so glad that the Open Book meetings allow us to still connect and talk – essential for well being at the moment, even if it involves shedding a nostalgic tear or two!