A Malteser abroad- musings from United Kingdom
In our series highlighting family experiences across the globe during the pandemic, Maltese born Suzanne Cacciottolo a Music and Piano Teacher residing in Surrey, UK shares her musings with our Malta Kids community.
Suzanne Cacciottolo moved to Surrey with her husband and two young children 12 years ago. She is a music and piano teacher who started a successful Concert Series, 'Conservatoire Concerts' which holds monthly concerts in Godalming Surrey, featuring promising music students from Conservatoires.
Life in the time of Covid 19
The day it hit me that my life was about to change, was when I was at school during one of my school teaching days, and found an email from the church where I organise my monthly series of Conservatoire Concerts, informing me that the venue is closed until further notice. It suddenly dawned on me that the world that we are used to, is changing.
From that moment onwards, things started happening so fast that at times I felt as if I was in a room and the walls were moving closer towards me. Decisions to take – do we stock up on food, why are people buying loads of toilet paper? Should our daughter isolate at home with us? What is a lock down? Where do I work from? What do I do with my piano students? So many questions! Luckily, the immediate decisions taken by the government to lock down the country soon presented us with the undisputable answers.
My husband and I made a quick trip to collect our 23 year old daughter from Bristol. She wisely decided that isolating in our house in Surrey is a far better deal. Bidding farewell to her boyfriend was not easy of course. My husband quickly adjusted to shifting his London office to our spare bedroom. The joys of working on a computer make life so easy.
Both my daughter and I teach music (yes music does play a huge part in our family) so we had to adjust to modern technology and teach our piano and violin students using the various media available. Fortunately, my husband has a big foresight and just before the shops closed down he upgraded us with a better computer and tablet which are necessary for our daily lessons.
Teaching piano online does not come without any challenges of course. After learning how to deal with poor wi-fi, out of tune pianos, parents who insist on moving their mobile camera with every note their child is playing to the point that I am about to faint, I have now got used to it (more or less) and lessons are going smoothly.
As for my monthly concerts in Godalming, once again my dear husband's intuition has saved the day. We are now organising weekly virtual concerts, set up our own YouTube channel and have already organised 10 online concerts, giving numerous musicians the opportunity to earn some money and perform for a virtual audience… in some cases much larger than when performing to a live audience.
These past ten weeks have been a blessing in a way. I have learnt to slow down, take breaks in between lessons (even though it means more frequent visits to the biscuit tin), enjoyed daily walks in the surrounding countryside with my daughter, managed to pick up Spanish again and learnt more music to play with my daughter. It has been a pleasure to be able to play with her again. My passion for gardening and growing vegetables has hugely benefitted from my time at home and I find daily solace in the beauty nature is offering us in our garden. The glorious weather we have been enjoying throughout these weeks have been an added bonus.
Probably my fondest memory is when my son who lives in London and has in the meantime managed to break his leg, agreed to come home for a few days for his birthday and some motherly love. Suddenly our house was filled with more music, mellow viola sounds coming from his room as he practiced, violin and cello sounds from the dining room, my intermittent piano playing between lessons and my husband's booming voice as he holds conference calls with his colleagues. The joys of having a full house!
Evenings usually end with a light spontaneous family concert in our music room and with our son Peter home the ensemble grew of course!
Somehow, this forced lockdown has brought me closer to my family. Thanks to our daily family Skype call, I get to chat with my father and sister whilst trying to entertain mum who is in a carehome. Although it means that I have to set a daily alarm since our call starts at 9.00am for me in the UK, I look forward to these daily chats.
As UK is easing the restrictions, my life is slowly slipping into its previous routine of going to school two days a week. I am certainly going to miss the comforts of working from home, and having lazy breakfasts with my husband in our sunny, lush garden. From tomorrow 2nd June I am back at school, and it seems that I will be on the alert, cleaning surfaces throughout the day whilst taking care of children of keyworkers, and making sure we all keep our social distance – two words I got to despise lately as they go against my character.