The Shortest Distance

The Shortest Distance

Yesterday was a tough, busy day at work and I was inclined to bring it to a close as soon as possible by just going to bed early and notching the day up as a complete waste, however I decided at the last minute to attend a piano recital at the local town hall. 

The pianist  – an elderly fellow by the name of Paul – is a friend of mine who lives alone in a small house over the hill with his red Kelpie Jack.  Jack often pays us a visit but Paul is a recluse so we don’t see him often. 

Paul is completely self-sustained on his property – has solar power, grows his own food – and every now and then a pamphlet appears in the letterbox regarding a sale of fresh vegetables and fruit at his place. He’s something of an icon around here, so you rock up to the sale and half the town is there just because of that interest factor, notwithstanding that his fruit and vegetables are magnificent. You also turn up and he’s there playing his impressive ebony grand piano which takes up most of his small house, while his grown-up son and daughter are running the sale.

Occasionally, we also we receive a pamphlet in the letterbox announcing that Paul is going to be playing in a local concert, and I usually make a point of going, as I decided to last night. 


Paul is a man after my own heart because he predominantly plays the classics. I love watching pianists who appear to become so absorbed in their playing that their emotion just pours out of them and they are oblivious to everything around them. During last night’s concert, when Paul played Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1, he clearly experienced so much passion that he was almost throwing himself off his piano stool at the pinnacles of the piece. 

I had an aisle seat next to a young woman I’d never seen before (you get to recognise most locals after a while) – dark unruly hair tied back in a pony tail, a bit haggard-looking. She had on jeans and tshirt and one of those long lacy vests that are in fashion right now. She said hello to me in a reserved sort of way when she sat down and that was it for communication – most of the time she sat there, arms and legs crossed – sound asleep! I could feel myself wanting to giggle sometimes because every now and then she would emit this funny noise which was a cross between a grunt and a snuffle, and her body would jerk however she still managed to sleep on and stay upright. 

Stephen King quote about laughter

Just as the Tchaikovsky got to the penultimate climax – Sleeping Girl starts to list sideways in my direction!  Next thing I know, her arm is pressing against mine, and her whole body kind of collapses onto me. The spindly chairs in the hall are about a hundred years old and were long past being sturdy, so as I struggled to remain upright, my chair started to wobble and tilt…and then both of us and our two chairs are crashing to the floor in this crazy tangle. 

Paul continued to play as if he didn’t hear anything but everyone else it seemed in the audience turned around at the rumpus and there were a few prissy glares being directed our way.  Unsurprisingly,  the spill woke Sleeping Girl and she struggled to help up me and herself and restore order, muttering sorry…sorry… 

I couldn’t help it. I just found it so hilarious.  The giggles just overwhelmed me. It was so mortifying because I couldn’t stop. I was trying to be silent and that struggle infected Sleeping Girl who also started to laugh noiselessly. We somehow got the chairs righted and sat down but I was literally crying and snorting with this silent laughter that was hurting my stomach muscles, and Sleeping Girl was shaking as well and it seemed like we were just setting each other off because we would stop for a second, then I would wipe my nose or something and she would start juddering again, which would set me off. She leaned in and whispered “jet lag” at one point and for some unknown reason that explanation just seemed to cause both of us more mirth. 

humour quote

I made myself think of something serious and somehow the laughter eased.  Paul’s daughter announced an intermission, Paul wandered off stage and Sleeping Girl held out her hand and said “Emma” and I introduced myself as well. Turns out she is Paul’s granddaughter , and had just flown in from London after a nightmare flight that included sitting on the tarmac at Heathrow for five hours or something ridiculous – I think she can be forgiven for snoozing in the circumstances. 

It was just a few short minutes of shared silly hilarity. However, it turned what I’d written off as a waste of a day into a truly splendid one and forged a friendship. Laughter is truly the best medicine and the shortest distance between strangers.

Laughing woman 2