I was nervous about my first lesson as I sat in the car the next day. I needn't have been. By the end of it I couldn't bear the thought of leaving; I didn't want to ever walk out of that room.
The teacher was lovely. Her name was Anna, and she had been playing since she was four years old. Russian, I discovered, with an enchanting accent despite having lived in England for a good ten years now, and a stunning player. When I first walked in I was a little too nervous to begin at once, so she said she would play something for me.
"Just sit there," she said, leading me over to the piano stool in the corner. She'd taken my blindness on board almost at once and I was surprised at how well she dealt with it until she said that she used to work as a music teacher in a school for the blind - suddenly, everything made sense. But I was grateful for her tactful remarks and gentle hands, for I had been worried that whoever my mother had chosen wouldn't be able to cope with my disability.
Then she played, and I was enchanted. I had never heard anything like that before. it fell from epic - high and shrill, with bright fortes and crescendos - to a lament so sad it almost made me weep - low, with lots of vibrato and barely a whisper of sound. Afterwards I was even less willing to pick up my violin, afraid of the squeaking sound that would surely be emitted from it, and she had to coax me out of my shell.
"Come on, you can do this," she said, her voice encouraging. I felt her hand on my shoulder and knew she was right beside me. "You think you're the first beginner I've taught? And you've played the piano. You know what you have to do: you're not going to settle for out of tune as they would have done. That's going to make things so much easier."
I wanted to say, "It is?" but she had already positioned the violin under my chin and closed my fingers around the bow; while I tried to grip it as best I could she correct the hand position until it was perfect, and helped me put the bow on the string.
"Now, bow that note. I don't care that you haven't got any fingers down, just get a note out." Hesitantly, I pulled it across the string. It squeaked. But I would not be defeated by it! I was going to learn to play as she had, so that I could play my own tunes on the violin. I was going to make a sound so beautiful that none could compare... I was not going to squeak. So I turned the bow to go in the other direction and made another stroke, ignoring the squeaks. And again. And again. Until, after around ten bow strokes, I had a passable sound.
"Did I do it right?" I said at last, dropping the hand with the bow to my side and feeling infinitely glad that Mum wasn't there to see me at my first attempt, since she would surely have been very disappointed.
Anna, however, sounded impressed. "You did very well, actually. Especially for somebody who's never played before. Not many beginners would get a sound like that out so quickly. And I know you can't see it, but your bow was very straight, exactly parallel with your bridge. That's something I've been trying to teach my advanced students for months."
It was? Of course, I hadn't known. I didn't even know that it was supposed to be. "Well, just luck, I suppose." I tried a few more bowing notes and she helped me with changing strings, but it was only a half-hour lesson and we soon had to stop.
"Come back on Friday," she told me. Of course I would. I would never forget that strange liberation, the sense of freedom that I had felt.