On Monday night Wifey, Thing I and I headed down to a local Chinese restaurant – The Orchid Manor – in Whitehaven. This was not an ordinary night out however. This was a fundraising event for Ria and her campaign.
The wonderful owner of the Orchid and all her staff donated their time (opening on night when they don’t normally and working for free) and all the profits of the night to help raise money for Ria and, in fact, the sum raised now means we’ve succeeded in raising all the money we hoped to for her first year of the degree here in the UK.
My family and I are, regrettably, still rather poor and are needing to spend wisely so we can afford to have Ria living with us as our second daughter come August so we had a dilemma about the night. Even though everyone there paid a donation for the food rather than a set price as such and so we could, technically, not pay anything, I wanted to make sure we did our part.
So, for the whole evening, I played the sitar! Whether that was ‘value for money’ you’ll have to ask those who were there, but I played anyway.
This was my second public playing in the UK but by far the longest playing I’ve ever managed so far – covering two hours though I took breaks and munched on food between courses! I was pleased my fingers were up to the job. When I used to have lessons in Bangladesh, I couldn’t play for more than half an hour without my left first finger being so bruised I couldn’t play for a couple of days afterwards or my right arm muscles aching and seizing up from playing a ton of tremolos! But on this night I managed to keep going.
One surprise was that one of our waiters was a Bangladeshi. As I played a variation based around ‘Amar Sonar Bangla’ he came past and said “this is my country’s national anthem!” I was nice that he a) recognised it from my musical ramblings and b) was smiling rather than looking angry with what I was doing to Tagore’s famous song.
The second, most lovely surprise, was that another waiter was an ex-student of mine from pre-Bangladesh days when I used to teach in Whitehaven. He was charming and genuinely delighted to see me, reeling off a load of things I taught him years and years ago. I was chuffed that he could remember so much of my lessons so vividly.
Someone told me afterwards that he said to one of our party that “Mr Ford-Powell didn’t just teach us music – he taught us how to live.” I don’t know how true that is but higher praise I don’t think I could receive – not for all the OFSTED inspections in the world.
Although Ria is Bangladeshi and the sitar music is Indian subcontinent music, there IS a connection between Bangladesh, Ria and a Chinese restaurant for me! Every year while teaching in Bangladesh I used to take the oldest students at LAMB school out for a meal at our local Chinese restaurant – an hour away by car in Dinajpur. Ria was one of those who went a couple of times and I have fond memories of times spent in semi-darkness at Martin’s Restaurant. If you take a look at that blog post you’ll see a young Ria in one or two of the photos at the end.
Fond memories which flooded back after a wonderful and successful evening. I’m very grateful to all the staff at the Orchid Manor – and I can heartily recommend the place too if you’re a local (they don’t know I’m writing this, by the way, so I’ve not been primed – this is genuine appreciation from me). They produce fantastic Chinese food!