'Little boys go to sea and girls play the piano'
by Alison Pink
Our Accompanist, Alison Pink, gives us a glimpse into one of her other lives, as an Examiner.
I was brought up in Epsom, Surrey by Frederick Pink a British Rail ticket collector and Betty Pink an usherette in a cinema. Mum was 45 when she had me and they both sacrificed much to send my brothers to a Merchant Navy officer training school on Anglesey - they are now both Sea Captains, and me to have Piano, Violin and French Horn lessons. Mother said little boys go to sea and girls play the piano, and we did what mother said!
After leaving the Royal College of Music with equal qualifications in Piano and French I had many different types of job but I thought it would be interesting to share some of the funnier events over the years.
In my first few weeks at the Royal Ballet School I was asked to attend the end of year show in one of the rehearsal studios which had pull-out seating. I was working during the day for a children's adventure holiday company and we got stuck in a traffic jam. I felt I had to attend to show keeness so arrived late and in jeans and a tee shirt that said "I do it worldwide" on the front (given to me by one of my brothers). In the interval all of the audience stood up to allow Princess Margaret to leave. I looked around and everybody was dripping with jewellery and posh dresses. I thought I would merge into the background, but my boss caught me and said: "All the pianists are being introduced to the Princess - come on." Princess Margaret did not show any sign of noticing my sloppy appearance. What a professional!
For over twenty years now I have been an examiner for Trinity Guildhall. One day while examining in Bakewell, Derbyshire a candidate had finished his exam and I thanked him and went back to my paperwork. I heard the door click and waited for the next person. Nobody came, so I went out to ask the steward and they said the candidate had not come out of the exam room. We both went back into the room and the door of the cupboard opened and out he came looking rather embarrassed - especially as there was no light in there. He must have been standing in the dark for at least five minutes.
As WCS members know, I do a lot of examining in India these days so here are a few strange things that have happened:
On one of my first visits, a candidate, after their exam came to my table and climbed underneath to touch my feet. This apparently is to show respect but when you are not expecting it, was rather a shock.
We are supposed to go to the door and welcome candidates into the exam with a smile and their name, which also checks that we are examining the right person. Imagine my smile on the same morning when candidates were called Chip Plonker and Das Shita!
All involved are very welcoming and quite often when I turn up there is a large poster of me in the entrance hall. Many students from the Music School dress to impress, giving me flowers etc. and the local press, radio or and TV attend, as it is an important event for them.
At some venues I have arrived by propeller plane and the terminal is literally a shed. You see elephants, cows, camels and monkeys in the road on the way to work. Waiting for my taxi home one day the steward saved me from being nipped by a camel.
My last story is about a mistake I made on a Sunday morning. I had an early internal flight and told the taxi driver I needed to go to the domestic terminal. The taxi dropped me off and the security guard on the door at the terminal said I was in the wrong place, as it was an Air India flight I was catching, and the correct terminal was the other side of the runway and I would have to go around the runway about 2km. A man came from nowhere, grabbed by suitcase and said "I take you, I take you" and disappeared across the carpark with me chasing him. At the main road he put my large suitcase in the back of his Tuk Tuk and started the engine. I didn't realise how quickly these machines could go but there were lovely views of fishermen with their nets by the beach and bicycles with so much stuff on I don't know how they ride. I got to the correct terminal in double quick time!
I have had many adventures abroad but also time to see the Taj Mahal, Delhi, Jaipur, Ghandi's house in Ambdebad and Elephanta Island in Mumbai, Singapore, the Twin Towers and the Batu Caves in Kuala Lumpur.