It’s lunchtime in Lambeth.
The streets glisten with oil-streaked rain.
I take refuge in a Church,
pews dotted with damp heads;
hear the vicar introduce a concert,
feel myself relax from hubbub outside.
A blonde woman sits at the piano:
a soft round mound of swelling stomach on the stool.
The Chopin nocturne takes my breath and stills it,
the notes tiptoe around the knave of my mind,
bringing an involuntary smile to my lips.
I wonder whether her baby’s smiling too.
My mind drifts back to another rainy day
34 years earlier, on the Champs Elysees,
watching Close Encounters, badly dubbed in French,
the haunting score stirring my son to kick and dance
against my stomach – in protest or excitement
at the landing of aliens, I shall never know.
And many years before that, the young girl
sitting in the rotunda of the Palladian mansion,
watching her music teacher Harrison Birtwhistle
conducting his latest cacophonous composition
of clashing chords and prolonged silences,
as Maxwell Davies’ hands fluttered over the keys.
Beside me, as the concert finishes, the man’s cheek is wet.
We share a smile, pull on coats and gloves, shake hands, wave goodbye.
A cold blast fills the church as the doors open.
The notes play on in my mind, like feathers touching dark recesses,
dusting away the anxieties of deadlines and duties.
I walk into the rain, feeling sheltered from the storm.