Suffer little children & an interlude: A true story

Suffer little children.

Friday is the day of rest in the Middle East. A brief respite from the heat and the dust, the 5 am starts and the 60-hour week. A day to spend with the spouse or family and, in the more civilised countries, to enjoy breakfast at a hotel. This particular Friday, my better half was out on a short visit so we repaired to the favourite watering hole for breakfast. Fruits, steak, eggs, tomato, hash brown, beans and, at a server behind a ?Non-Muslims only? screen, real bacon and pork sausages.

We loaded up and returned to our table; all around were couples and families and friends quietly conversing: a convivial atmosphere. Muzak at a tolerably low volume in the background. A tinkle of teaspoons and clinking crockery.

Cue the soundtrack from Jaws.

In marched a tall blonde of Northern European appearance ? bedecked with jewellery which must have cost (and possibly weighed) as much as a Mercedes. In tow, two small beings who proceeded to run amok, shrieking and yelling, pushing and shoving, fighting with each other and annoying the people around by invasively peering at the provender on their tables.

Madam Goldfingers sat there, smoking a cigarette, reading the Gulf News and sipping coffee, completely oblivious to the child-borne pestilence inflicted on the surrounding diners. Peace shattered, conversation impossible, we, like most others, finished quickly and left with a sour aftertaste of ruined breakfast.

?God, all that bling, uncaring, no culture and no manners. I hope these b.?y brats won’t be there later,? said Mrs, mother of three and generally pretty tolerant.

An interlude.

Late in the afternoon, we returned for a sundowner.

We found a free table and sat down. The breakfast bar was now closed and replaced with a real one. In the far corner, near to the newly-decorated Christmas tree, a Steinway grand was being discreetly played by a young man whose complexion matched the burnished ebony of the open lid. Medleys from 50?s musicals; some Beatles; some oldies; a bit of Gershwin. There was something about the way he was playing?

Half-listening turned to attentiveness. He had a delicacy of touch, a sensitivity to harmonic nuances?

A brief break.

I approached.

?You?ve been classically trained.?

It was a statement, not a question.

His face lit up with a broad grin. C-Major.

?Yeah, I?m at the New York University school. Next year, I finish.?

He was quietly spoken.

?What are you doing here??

?Have to pay for it.?

That made sense.

?Why did you take up classical music??

?To get out of Harlem. It?s not easy – unless yo? seven foot four.?


?Hey, my wife and I really are enjoying your playing. Could you play something classical for us after your break??


?Thanks, that?d be great – I can hear you have something more than just talent ? I wish you the best of luck for your final year.?

?Thanks, yo? go well.?

?And you.?

I ordered more drinks whilst reflecting on the differences between money and culture; indifference and dedication; arrogance and self-deprecation.

Our pianist resumed. A medley of light classics with some more modern ones interspersed. A brief pause and then he commenced playing Bach?s Jesu Joy of Man?s Desiring.

The piano transcription of this great piece is often played as an encore and quite frequently in a fairly perfunctory manner.

This was different.

He played it slowly, sensitively savouring the work with a delicacy of touch and accuracy of phrasing.

Silence fell. Even the construction guys 3 tables away became muted.

We sat spellbound, listening in the fading light.

The Divine was in the detail.

Peace on earth. Goodwill toward men.

Footnote: The link is an interpretation nearest to what we heard. A good sound system or headset is recommended for listening.


by ToBoldLeeGoh