There are three or four cellos dotted around my apartment in various states of disrepair. Ghostlike in corners they linger between here and the afterlife.
My cello of choice has a great tone but is an embarrassment to look at so I was saving up for a new one. Now I am doing videos it needs to look better than it sounds, after all, I can edit the audio. But buying a cello is like having a child, life-changing, expensive, and can go so wrong.
I contacted a luthier oop north who has said they can send the van and collect my atrocity, lend me one whilst they repair it, then redeliver the instrument when it has had its surgery. I am absolutely overjoyed.
I bought my cello in a thrift store as I was doing a drive-by in a friend's vintage Mercedes in West Sussex.
'Stop!' I screamed, 'I saw a cello?'
I paid £80 with a £20 reduction secured by the bartering skills of my friend who was an antique dealer. The gent in the shop assured me it was at least 100 years old and I was glad of the opportunity to replace my student Stentor.
Just by chance, I was en route to Brighton for a family visit. A friend had mentioned a luthier of great repute who has a violin workshop in Brunswick Street named Peter Ratcliff. Peter is an expert in valuations having developed a world-renowned system for analysing wood. He charges around £3,000 to glance his beady eye over things. He is a demigod in strings curcles.
Clearly, he was my man.
I made a call, name-dropped, and an hour later was having the soundpost set up and a quick valuation. What a stroke of luck.
The instrument was made in the 1970s and the body construction was quite good. I got what I paid for, as is usual in these matters, but had not wasted my measly £80.
Some years on I am deeply attached to this instrument.
I have listened to lots of cellos online as I seek to improve, particularly for recording. But it remains a cost issue and the instruments I like enough are at least £3,000 but do not seem to be much better in tone than my £80 bargain. I confess an unexplained attachment to this lump of wood which has now become such a big part of my life. Unfortunately, I cannot afford the upper-end instruments and I may need to wait a while for one of those, you know, when I make the big time.
The next choice is surgery.
I am to make a naked video and send it to the luthier oop north. I confess I feel some shame. The paint is coming off the fingerboard, it rattles at the nut, the bridge is a bodge job from a man who pretended to be qualified just before lockdown, the entire fingerboard is so squew that the bridge has to sit a good half-inch off centre, and the body is covered in chips and scratches after years of missing the target. It is the equivalent of a trust fund hippy, but worse than shabby shic, more like the morning after the festival.
I will update you with news. I am budgeting £1000. Let us pray.