Monday, 4 August 2008

Debussy and the Art of Conversation - Meet Daniel

At around 2.30pm most Tuesdays, a stocky bearded man arrives at September’s, carrying an over-stuffed, battered leather satchel, with a navy blue padded violin case casually hung over his shoulder. His physique, rather like the bag he carries, has seen better days, but his ruddy-cheeked smile and razor-sharp wit endears him to everyone he meets. This is Daniel Gold, violin teacher to the talented (and not-so-blessed) music students in the four Northbridge schools.

Unlike many of the customers, Daniel does not have a preference for where he sits, just as long as he can find somewhere to drop his bags and read his newspaper in peace. His visits to September’s are a rare moment of cosy self-indulgence in the maelstrom of his week: a blessed forty minutes of cake, coffee and The Times in the middle of countless music lessons, orchestra rehearsals and recitals.

Despite his most strenuous declarations of adhering to a strict healthy-eating regime, Daniel finds that somehow, when he sets foot in the café, his willpower dissolves faster than the two sugars he spoons into his cappuccino each week.
‘I don’t know what happens,’ he moans to Nessa, as she brings over his slice of homemade white chocolate truffle cake with ice cream, ‘It’s like September’s zaps my good intentions the moment I walk through the door. Ah well, seeing as I’m powerless to resist, I’d better surrender to the inevitable delights of your cooking.’ Winking at Nessa, he adds with a grin, ‘And, while we’re on the subject of submitting to calories, I don’t suppose you have any clotted cream hanging around, do you?’

Daniel Gold’s mother has long given up hope of him ever meeting a ‘nice Jewish girl’, finally admitting defeat three years ago on his fortieth birthday.

‘Danny, you are lovely but you are hopeless,’ she declared, throwing up her hands in the wildly overdramatic manner that her son loves. ‘You have driven your poor mother to the edge of her sanity. So I am giving up on you, my darling. I’m sorry but you have exhausted my matchmaking skills.’ Smiling fondly at her beloved eldest son, Abigail Gold softened what she imagined was a huge blow to his ego with an extra-large slice of Wonder Cake – a recipe passed down from her mother’s mother.

Contrary to her fears, the cessation of his mother’s over-zealous matchmaking efforts came as a welcome relief to Daniel. He was tired of enduring long, drawn-out dinners with a succession of drearily boring (and unremittingly unattractive) spinsters, avoiding his mother’s hopeful smiles over their shoulders and trying to ignore her overenthusiastic protestations of his suitability. ‘I know he looks like a challenge, but Danny’s quite low-maintenance, really…', '...I’m sure the beard isn’t a permanent feature…', '...Who needs a muscle-man when you can have a cuddly maestro, hmm?’

Whilst the mirror (and his mother) tell a different story, in his imagination Daniel is still the stallion he never was. His optimism – which many would argue is one of his most attractive features – has allowed him to find the positive in changes others would lament. So his growing waistline is ‘endearing’, his bushy beard gives him ‘scholarly authority’ and his greying temples lend him a ‘distinguished air.’ More importantly, Daniel knows that when he picks up a violin, the world stops to listen. And, as he confidently tells his endearing, scholarly and distinguished reflection each morning, the heart of every beautiful woman can melt with the music of a violin player.

But secretly, there is only one woman whose heart he longs to touch. Her name is Marta Klein and she is the most stunning creature on God’s earth.

He met her quite by accident – what his mother would call ‘a serendipity’ – one rainy Thursday three weeks ago. Attempting to shelter from an icy rainstorm after the strong wind had wrecked his umbrella, Daniel ducked into Noble Books, Northbridge’s antiquarian and second-hand bookshop – and his world changed forever. Sat behind the counter, startled at his sudden entrance yet suppressing a smile at the dishevelled figure before her, a diminutive lady with pale skin like a porcelain doll offered a timid welcome. Her beautiful large cornflower-blue eyes set like sapphires into her pale face, which was framed by a riot of tumbling dark curls, made Daniel catch his breath. After a few moments of awkward conversation, Marta noticed his violin case slung over his shoulder – and the magic began.

From that moment on, their conversation flowed freely. Marta’s late father, a German professor, who moved his entire family from Dresden to Northbridge when he was appointed to Birmingham University to teach European History, had loved classical music, passing the passion on to his daughter. Not a musician herself, Marta was fascinated by anyone who could play an instrument – and Daniel, in turn, was fascinated by Marta’s near encyclopaedic knowledge of composers and music.

Electrified by their initial conversation and desperate to maintain the connection, Daniel was suddenly struck with a brilliant idea during one of his visits to September’s. Remembering that Noble Books offered a Rare Book Finding Service, Daniel decided to set Marta a task to find old music scores and composer biographies. Spending hours researching online, he came across details of an out-of-print volume exploring Debussy’s Violin Sonata – the composer’s last work before his death – and, information memorised, he hurried back to Marta’s bookshop to place his order.

Now, all he has to do is wait for her call…

© Miranda Dickinson 2008

1 comment:

a cat named cat said...

Haha, Daniel makes me laugh, everyone does need a little sneaky piece of cake though! Aww, his meeting to Marta sounded lovely :) x

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Welcome To SEPTEMBER'S...'s a coffee shop with a difference. Meet the people who work here and the customers that visit - all of them have a story to tell. So pull up a comfy chair, enjoy your coffee, maybe even indulge in something sweet - and listen to the stories that surround you...

written by Miranda Dickinson, author of Remember and The Mystical Wombat's Guide to Life