Welcome To The Army (Band)

She was nervous arriving. Anyone would be, when they had to drive up to an army barracks and leave the car - and with it, their parents and anything familiar - to wait in a reception room for somebody they didn't know to take them to the Band block. Several minutes she stood with her suitcase until the promised instructor arrived, dressed in a uniform of off-green trousers, a shirt and tie, and a forest green woollen jumper with 'RA' on the shoulder.

"Are you Rhiannon?" they said, and she nodded. They know who I am. Everyone else must be here already. I knew we should have left earlier. "Great, come with me. You're just in time for the rehearsal."

"Am I last?" she said, dragging the suitcase along behind her as she entered through the security gates. Her guide, Lauren, laughed at the question.

"Not quite. There are some coming from much further away but they've missed their train, and won't be here until eleven. Some of the girls were early, though. I wasn't even dressed and they started arriving. Late is better than early for me."

The first room they passed in the band block was an orchestral rehearsal room, full of musicians in the same uniform as Lauren. She led Rhiannon to another door, and told her to leave her suitcase there with the others. Just inside the room was a light haired boy with a saxophone. Yes, thought Rhiannon. I don't have to go in on my own.

That wasn't the case, it would seem. "I'm sorry, Owen," said Lauren. "We just can't fit the saxophone into the orchestra. He'll be along in a minute, okay?"

Baffled by this exchanged, Rhiannon left her bags and picked up her instruments, as she was already being hurried along, back to the orchestra rehearsal room. After a brief introduction to the conductor she was sat in the violin section, next to a girl dressed smartly in a shirt, skirt and black cardigan. She looked down at herself wearing a shapeless hand-me-down hoodie and jeans, and at the army musicians all around with their uniforms and polished shoes, suddenly feeling incredibly under dressed.

"Hi, I'm Rhiannon."

"Sally," said the girl next to her. She had a Scottish accent. "Whereabouts are you from, then?"

Rhiannon was already undoing her violin case and trying to balance it on her lap. "Oh, about twenty minutes' away," she replied. "How about you?"

"Edinburgh," said Sally, with a small smile. "Well, I'm at uni in Edinburgh. I actually come from Fife."

"Edinburgh. Wow." Before coming on the course she'd sort of assumed that most people would be local, but it would appear that she was mistaken. She'd also assumed they'd start with icebreakers or some equally uncomplicated activity to get them into it, but even so early on a Monday morning it soon became apparent that this was a full blown rehearsal. And it was hard.

Rhiannon hadn't played the violin in an orchestra for several months, turning her attention to the flute instead; it quickly became apparent that her sight-reading skills had suffered. If the whole week was going to be as difficult as this, she wasn't sure she'd be able to cope.

Especially when it's not all playing music, she thought to herself. Physical training, it said on the itinerary. This is the army we're talking about, after all.

She'd be going home on Friday, though: the thought was some comfort. Four and a half days was all she had to survive. Four nights of very little sleep, five days of rather uncertain food, and one shower between nine girls. Orchestral rehearsals for three days, a concert, the dreaded physical training, and then 'mock auditions' with the band master. And then she would be able to go home, on Friday, and sleep.

She could survive that long, couldn't she?

The End

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