Imagine a harpsichord is on one side of the river. You need to get it to the other side of the river. It takes two people to carry the harpsichord, and although you don't have a big enough boat (OK, car) to carry it, you know somebody who does. So far so easy. But the harpsichord is behind a locked door to which you do not have the key. And the car starts off in another town. And there are security guards on the other side of the river...
It started off as a Simple Plan. A concert was to be held at the Victoria & Albert Museum. This was to involve a harpsichord, currently sitting in the harpsichordist's flat in South London. The necessary estate car was to be borrowed for the day. As the harpsichordist would be out, the keys to the flat were in the posession of a Man who would turn up at the requisite time with said Keys, unlock the flat and help to load the instrument into the car. The nice people at the V&A were expecting us at midday and would help unload at the other end. What could possibly go wrong?
Now read on, dot dot dot
Having taken the train up to Luton the night before to collect the car, I arrive at the pickup at 10:30
, park up and (as it's a fairly busy road) put the hazard indicators on. No sign of the Man With The Keys, and no reply from his phone, so presumably he's on his way. The sun has come out and it's a lovely day for standing around by the side of the road, watching the world go by. The world is mainly buses, delivery men and burglar alarm installers, but you can't have everything.
, I'm a bit concerned and make a few more calls. Then at half past, the Man With The Keys calls (Hurrah!). He had forgotten the appointment (Boo!) but is now on his way. We agree I'll drive to collect him from the nearest (i.e., not very near)
convenient tube station. This plan is good, until it transpires that an hour of hazard lights has run down the car battery. Bearing in mind you can't fit a harpsichord in just any old car, this is not the high point of my day.
Long-Suffering Wife agrees to come and assist, which necessitates buying some jump leads on the way. I leave a message on Man With The Keys's voicemail suggesting he get a taxi.
, the car is jump started and running. As Long-Suffering Wife has to go to work, it will stay running until I'm sure the battery is sufficiently charged that it'll start again. The Man With The Keys, not having found a taxi, is on a bus somewhere on the South Circular.
Ten to one
, and we are quorate. Now we can begin loading up. The Man With the Keys opens the front door. I hover outside to keep an eye on the still-running car. A friendly housemate hovers inside watching the Man With The Keys' valiant attempts to open the inner door with the Keys at his disposal, then takes a closer look and declares them all to be The Keys for the exterior door. There must be an Other Key somewhere.
The Man With Some
Of The Keys calls his lodgings and shortly a Woman With The Other Key is on her way from North London. We get in the car to drive to the aforementioned nearest (not very near)
convenient tube station where, after a short wait and some anxiety about parking attendants, The Man With Some Of The Keys meets The Woman With The Other Key, reunites the keys over the ticket barrier, and we're back on our way. On the plus side, by this time, the battery must be well and truly recharged.
, we breach the final barrier and lug the harpsichord out and into the car. The little trolley we use for moving it around isn't much use in this confined exit so we put it to one side. Only later will this seem like quite a bad idea. Ten minutes after arriving, we're on our way, and with light traffic and some cunning navigation we arrive at the Victora & Albert Museum at ten past three
. The security guards don't seem to be expecting us, but after checking us out they find us passes and tell us where to park, and that someone will be along to help with the moving soon. The Man With The Keys exits, stage left, to return later.
Unlike the earlier South London Roadside, the back alleys of the V&A are a bit nippy, particularly if you have to stand around in them for the best part of an hour. There is some very nice experimental plasterwork hidden away back there, but I'm not quite interested enough in plaster for this to keep me entertained in the cold.
Come four o'clock, the cheerful porters arrive. They are only slightly disheartened by the news that the harpsichord removal trolley is sitting on a doorstep some miles away, and quickly find a workable substitute. By 4:15
, the harpsichord is set up in the music room ready for that evening's concert. All is well, at least until the concert is over and the instrument has to be removed to yet another corner of the city - but that's another story...