The Great Piano Caper

Forty something  years ago, my family returned home from an outing, to find a piano in the porch.  As far as the very youthful me was concerned, this was just amazing.  A piano, appearing out of nowhere?  Just sitting there? In OUR porch?  Didn’t the mysterious piano benefactor know that we already had a piano?  What would we do with two pianos?

I soon realised that this wasn’t just a weird and random event.  My Mum (known here as Granny) had finally bought the piano of her dreams – a Bechstein upright, from Piggotts in Dublin, if that rings a bell with any Irish readers.  Of course, no-one had mobile phones in those days – in fact, it’s even possible that this happened before we had a phone in the house – so when the driver delivered the piano and found no-one at home, he just left it in the porch.

I’m not sure how we got it into the house (two adults plus three smallish kids hauling 250kg up two steps?), but it was installed in the hall, and a short while later, the old piano disappeared, sold to one of Granny’s students, if I remember rightly.  So the Bechstein upright was the Murphy family piano, and the piano Granny gave lessons on, from around about 1970 right up to the mid 1990s.  And then Granny bought the REAL piano of her dreams – a beautiful Bechstein baby grand.  But what to do with the old one?

No-one wanted it to leave the family and, thankfully, my brother and sister were happy for it to make the journey to Cork where it became the Greenlee family piano for almost twenty years.  And then…

We moved to Provence (for a year. Ahem.)  And our house was rented out.  And there was no way I was leaving my Mum’s beloved Bechstein behind in a rented house.  What to do?

Fortunately, Tansy was studying music in a Cork college.  They kindly allowed her to keep the piano in one of their rehearsal rooms for two years.  And then she finished her course, and the LSH and I found ourselves still in Provence.  What to do?

Well, I have some lovely friends, one of whom offered to temporarily home the piano (thanks, Denise).  Until we either returned to Ireland or bought a house in France.  The latter happened and, once we were installed, I began to look into How to Get a Piano from West Cork to the Alpes de Haute Provence.  Initially, this involved asking a friend who deals in antiques for advice and then sitting back while he made lots of enquiries!  But Mike drew a blank – all of the quotes he was given for transporting it from Cork to Provence were outlandishly expensive.

Griffins Pianos in Cork, who looked after the Bechstein for me in Cork, were fantastic, and put me in touch with a guy who would transport it from Cork to England, where Mike has a contact with a transport company, RGTS.  The Bechstein left my friend’s house on the 23rd of November and sat in Griffin’s shop for a couple of weeks.  It finally arrived in England in the middle of December, and stayed in the RGTS warehouse until there was a van coming down this way.  Last week, I got a call saying that the piano would arrive on Thursday.  Hooray!

But there was one more hurdle to negotiate.  Our living area is upstairs.  The staircase is steep and narrow, with a sharp bend at the top.  How were we going to manoeuvre a 250 kilo piano up the stairs and around the corner?  What about the balcony? Could we get a small crane in to lift it onto the balcony?  What to do, what to do?

I asked around in the village.  Climasphere have a Manitou, I learned.

For the uninitiated, this is a Manitou

For the uninitiated, this is a Manitou

We already have a contract with Climasphere; they installed the pomp à chaleur central heating system in our house and they continue to maintain it… The head honcho came around for a look.  Yes, we can do it, he said.  Lift it up on the fork of  the Manitou, hoist it over the balcony, four or five of the lads will then take it down and into the living room via the double door.  Plan A was established.

Plan B, if Plan A failed, was to manhandle the piano up the stairs, around the corner at the top and into the living room.  Plan C, if Plan A failed dramatically, was to sweep up the heap of firewood and ivory from the patio and NEVER EVER tell Granny what had happened.

And how did it go?


Lining up the fork of the Manitou to take the piano out of the van


Safely strapped on


Coming in the gate


The Manitou is too big (or our garden is too small) to drive straight down and line up with the balcony…


…so it basically half-passed across the lawn until it was in place


Lined up with the balcony, and getting ready to go up


The Ascension


Just a little further…


We learned our balcony railing will support the weight of a man…


…and our balcony will support the weight of seven men plus a 250 kilo piano




Lowering her down as gently as they could…


In through the doors


Et voila.

So, thanks to all involved in the Great Piano Caper – Denise, Griffins, Mike, RGTS and Climasphere.  The Bechstein’s  history continues to unfold, thanks to you.

How to banjax a back

First, have a root canal treatment.  This involved approximately an hour in The Chair at the dentists.  Now, I’m not someone who has a dentist-phobia – in fact, I worked as a dental nurse for a couple of years.  But no matter how cool a patient you are, you’ll still tense up while someone is yanking things out of one of your teeth.  Part of the root canal process involves scrubbing out the tissue from inside each of the three roots (yes, it was a molar) with a little thing called a broach – it’s like a teeny-tiny bottle brush.  One of those kept getting stuck.  Much yanking was needed.  And no, it’s not at all reassuring when the dentist says “Phew!” as he mops the sweat off his brow.


Culprit #1 Root Canal Treatment

Second, try to get a room painted before Christmas.  It was all done bar the skirting boards and the radiator and I was determined to finish it before we went to Chamonix to spend Christmas with our daughters.  The skirting boards needed three coats.  That’s a lot of time to be hunched over on the floor, but I got it done.  Then the radiator had its first coat.  More sitting on the floor, slightly twisted this time as I was turned to face on the radiator.  When I finished, I stood up, my back went TWANG and I said “Oh, fiddlesticks.”  Well, I said something that began with an F.


Culprit #2 Still needs a second coat

Third, go down to the local Christmas market the day after the aforementioned TWANG.  I had taken some nurofen, and the back was feeling a bit better, so I thought I’d be fine.  The market was lovely – very small and very local, with free vin chaud.  Yum.  After wandering around in the cold, looking at all the stalls, I was getting a bit sore again.


Culprit #3. No, not Santa and his donkey. The whole Christmas Market thing. (This was before the donkey said “Stuff this for a lark” and headed home with Santa hanging grimly onto the leadrope)

In hindsight, I should have gone home at that stage, but instead we adjourned to one of the local hostelries for a meal and a few drinks with friends.  By the time we left, I was in agony.  I made my way very slowly and very painfully up the stairs that night (our loo is upstairs, our bedroom downstairs) and didn’t come down again for three days.  Those three days were spent flat on my back on the bed in the spare room, or making brief forays into the bathroom or kitchen, leaning on walls or furniture as I inched my painful way along.

My lovely osteopath friend saw me as an Urgence on the Monday.  She had never seen me quite so crippled.  She treated me again on Thursday, to do whatever she could to make the six hour drive to Chamonix on Friday bearable.  Thanks to her and the wonders of Volterène tablets, we made it – and we had a great Christmas!

The whole back-banjaxing thing was very disappointing, on many levels.

I had survived a summer of forking hay and straw around the place, mucking out stables, dragging water troughs around and generally doing lots of physical work.  I was a bit achey in my lower back, but nothing unbearable.  It was mega-frustrating to be pole-axed by a series of seemingly trivial things after all that.

On the advice of my doctor and my osteopath, I’ve been following a strictly gluten and dairy free diet since mid-September (anyone who knows how much of a cheesaholic I am will know how difficult this has been for me).  Apparently my colon had lots of gas (quelle surprise! Doesn’t everyone’s?) and they were both suggesting that this is the root cause of my back issues.  Nope.  Don’t think so, folks.  This was the very worst back pain episode EVER!

I had also been working very hard to keep up-to-date with the horses’ hoof-trimming, and I’d been doing a damn good job, if I say so myself.  Three weeks of no care at all meant that Aero’s front left splayed happily to the inside and re-opened the white line separation I’d been working on, while Flurry’s Famously Enormous Frogs grew too big and developed little pockets of bruising on his back feet.  The farrier visited last week and gave them a good trim, taking the pressure off me for another two weeks or so, but I’m still not even up to picking out all eight hooves, let alone doing a two-hoof trimming session 😦

Anyhoo, onwards and upwards.  I rode today for the first time since Dec 15th, just fifteen minutes walking in the arena, working with the neck loop (cordellette in French), and then back down to the field.  Aero and I had been progressing nicely ‘hands-free’ before the back episode, even braving a little canter one day.  There’s another thing to be frustrated about, but we’ll get there again!



New Year, New Blog Post

First of all, thanks to everyone who left messages here or on Facebook, sympathising over the loss of Cinny.  Social media is wonderfully supportive through the sad times, and I appreciated every word.

I’m not going to do a ‘Goals for 2017’ post, nor am I going to do a ‘2016 Retrospective.’  I’m just going to carry on blogging sporadically about my horses, my dogs, whatever is going on in my life and occasional totally random things.  I’m not going to moan about how awful 2016 was, because although it may have been a bad year for many of my music heroes and a bad year for the world in general, it was a good year for me.  We bought our house in Provence and our Year in Provence became permanent.  Woohoo!

There’s one other thing about 2016, though.  It will forever be the year I did this :


I’d been thinking about a tattoo for a long time.  Ten years ago, we had the Summer of the Swallows in Cork.  Forty eight swallow chicks fledged in our yard that year and I almost got a swallow tattoo.  I went so far as visiting a couple of tattoo shops in the city and looking at swallow pictures, but none of them looked right – they were all too stylised.

Then I saw a lady who had a couple of paw-prints up her arm.  It was simple, pretty and not too in-your-face.  That gave me the idea of mixing paw-prints and hoofprints, but of course they’d have to be barefoot hoofprints!  And then I thought there are two other creatures who have left rather large footprints on my life path…

So this is the end result.


I like to think that the lowest paw-print, which peeps out under t-shirt sleeves, is for Cinnamon.

I’m tempted to continue across the back of my neck and down the other arm.

My Mammy will have a fit!