Five-Minute Memoir: Julia Copus recalls how her father fixed her crumpled Yamaha trumpet

 

I'm standing at the full-length mirror in my mother and step-father's bedroom practising scales when it happens. The little cup-shaped mouthpiece gripped in my left hand is still warm from my breath.

Moments before, a gleaming Yamaha trumpet had been attached to it; at 13, it is the most valuable thing I have ever had charge of. As it happens, I know its value to the penny. The face in the mirror takes in my own look of wide-eyed horror. Fuck, it mouths at me – and it's only then, using all the courage I can muster, that I look down.

The trumpet is lying on its side on the floorboards, though clearly it didn't fall that way; clearly it's the bell that has taken the hideous, full-on force of the impact. Who would have guessed that brass can crumple like paper? Here is the proof of it, but still it seems extraordinary to me: a mass of tiny, sharp-edged wrinkles and creases.

I thank God that the house is empty at least: my mother and my hot-tempered stepfather have gone to Carrefour for the week's big shop. I bend and lift the trumpet by its leadpipe, with the useless carefulness of hindsight, and notice at the same time that I am shaking.

There is a lot of talk of money in this house – of bills and maintenance cheques. It is one of the many mind games that is played in the fallout of my parents' divorce. There are mumblings, resentments, accusations: some days, the whole house bristles with them. At 13, I don't understand the details: I cannot know what it is like to struggle with money. But that is not to say I'm not aware of the talk. It is like a thick miasma, a constant background radiation.

The trumpet was a 13th birthday present from my mother and stepfather, bought on the never-never. This confuses me. My feeling is that it was purchased grudgingly – and only after a long succession of arguments and tears – and yet it was they who purchased it, not my saintly father. A photo exists somewhere of the very day – almost the very moment – I received it. There I am at the dining table in my navy-blue school uniform, my hair cut short into a fashionable wedge. When I close my eyes now, I see the instrument as it was then: its shining valves, the coppery tint of its bell.

It doesn't take me long to weigh up my options; in reality, there is only one. The phone rings in my father's cottage on the edge of the New Forest. Forty miles away it rings, on the melamine counter next to the stack of neatly filed papers in his red-and-white kitchen. "Hello?" The nearness and familiarity of his voice almost throws me off balance again, but in a moment, between snatches of my own panicky exegesis, he is telling me, quite calmly, to put the trumpet back in its case, place the case in a black bin bag, wait until dark, and leave it in the front garden by the fence. "As near to the road as possible." His plan is to drive over later, when everyone is in bed. He won't even have to set foot on the gravel.

That night, I lie awake and think of the trumpet's strange, truncated body out there in the darkness. I picture the sodium glow from the street light catching on the bin liner in the rain; my father reaching over the waist-high fence…

A week or so later, I take out a little note I find curled in the trumpet's miraculously re-formed bell. It can't be much longer than a week, because I still haven't made my fortnightly visit to Dad's since the accident happened. 'Job done!' the note says, in his jaunty script. I lift the instrument from its case and turn it from side to side. The repair is astonishing. But when I look closely I see that there is a distinct marbling pattern covering the bell, like veins where the creases had been – faint but unmistakable signs of damage.

"You're pleased with it, then?" my father says on the phone that evening. I am standing upstairs on the landing, by the large front window, my forehead against the glass.

"Yes, Dad. Very. Thank you."

"Oh good, good. Because, to tell you the truth, I was a bit concerned about those ripples on the bell. But you didn't notice those? The only way to get rid of them is to have the whole thing re-lacquered. I'd need to take out a second mortgage!"

"No, Dad." I stretch my hand out against the cold glass of the window. I know that, because of the marks, I will have to tell my mother and stepfather what has happened. There is no way of avoiding this: it is something I will simply have to go through, and perhaps quite soon. But not now. Not yet. "No," I say. "I didn't notice."

Julia Copus is a poet. Her new collection, 'The World's Two Smallest Humans', is published by Faber, and has recently been shortlisted for the TS Eliot Prize

Arts and Entertainment
Carrie Hope Fletcher
booksFirst video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Arts and Entertainment
Damien Hirst
artCoalition's anti-culture policy and cuts in local authority spending to blame, says academic
Arts and Entertainment
A comedy show alumni who has gone on to be a big star, Jon Stewart
tvRival television sketch shows vie for influential alumni
Arts and Entertainment
Jason goes on a special mission for the queen
tvReview: Everyone loves a CGI Cyclops and the BBC's Saturday night charmer is getting epic
Arts and Entertainment
Image has been released by the BBC
tv
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Henry Marsh said he was rather 'pleased' at the nomination
booksHenry Marsh's 'Do No Harm' takes doctors off their pedestal
Arts and Entertainment
All in a day's work: the players in the forthcoming 'Posh People: Inside Tatler'

tv
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne plays Stephen Hawking in new biopic The Imitation Game

'At times I thought he was me'

film
Arts and Entertainment

books
Arts and Entertainment
One Direction go Fourth: The boys pose on the cover of their new album Four

Review: One Direction, Four

music
Arts and Entertainment
'Game of Thrones' writer George RR Martin

Review: The World of Ice and Fire

books
Arts and Entertainment
Sean Bean will play 'extraordinary hero' Inspector John Marlott in The Frankenstein Chronicles
tvHow long before he gets killed off?
Arts and Entertainment
Some like it hot: Blaise Bellville

music
Arts and Entertainment
A costume worn by model Kate Moss for the 2013 photograph

art
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Len Goodman appeared to mutter the F-word after Simon Webbe's Strictly performance

Strictly
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie T makes his long-awaited return to the London stage
musicReview: Alexandra Palace, London
Arts and Entertainment
S Club 7 back in 2001 when they also supported 'Children in Need'
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Bruce Forsyth rejoins Tess Daly to host the Strictly Come Dancing Children in Need special
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Dornan plays Christian Grey getting ready for work

Film More romcom than S&M

Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch star in the Alan Turing biopic The Imitation Game

Review: The Imitation Game

film
Arts and Entertainment
The comedian Daniel O'Reilly appeared contrite on BBC Newsnight last night

comedy
Arts and Entertainment
The American stand-up Tig Notaro, who performed topless this week

Comedy...to show her mastectomy scars

Arts and Entertainment

TVNetflix gets cryptic

Arts and Entertainment
Claudia Winkleman is having another week off Strictly to care for her daughter
TV
Arts and Entertainment
BBC Children in Need is the BBC's UK charity. Since 1980 it has raised over £600 million to change the lives of disabled children and young people in the UK

TV review A moving film showing kids too busy to enjoy their youth

Arts and Entertainment
Richard Flanagan with his winning novel

Books Not even a Man Booker prize could save Richard Flanagan from a nomination

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Mau Mau uprising: Kenyans still waiting for justice join class action over Britain's role in the emergency

    Kenyans still waiting for justice over Mau Mau uprising

    Thousands join class action over Britain's role in the emergency
    Isis in Iraq: The trauma of the last six months has overwhelmed the remaining Christians in the country

    The last Christians in Iraq

    After 2,000 years, a community will try anything – including pretending to convert to Islam – to avoid losing everything, says Patrick Cockburn
    Black Friday: Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

    Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

    Britain braced for Black Friday
    Bill Cosby's persona goes from America's dad to date-rape drugs

    From America's dad to date-rape drugs

    Stories of Bill Cosby's alleged sexual assaults may have circulated widely in Hollywood, but they came as a shock to fans, says Rupert Cornwell
    Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

    Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

    As fans flock to see England women's Wembley debut against Germany, the TV presenter on an exciting 'sea change'
    Oh come, all ye multi-faithful: The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?

    Oh come, all ye multi-faithful

    The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
    Dr Charles Heatley: The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

    The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

    Dr Charles Heatley on joining the NHS volunteers' team bound for Sierra Leone
    Flogging vlogging: First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books

    Flogging vlogging

    First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
    Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show: US channels wage comedy star wars

    Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show

    US channels wage comedy star wars
    When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine? When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible

    When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine?

    When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible
    Look what's mushrooming now! Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector

    Look what's mushrooming now!

    Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector
    Neil Findlay is more a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

    More a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

    The vilification of the potential Scottish Labour leader Neil Findlay shows how one-note politics is today, says DJ Taylor
    Bill Granger recipes: Tenderstem broccoli omelette; Fried eggs with Mexican-style tomato and chilli sauce; Pan-fried cavolo nero with soft-boiled egg

    Oeuf quake

    Bill Granger's cracking egg recipes
    Terry Venables: Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back

    Terry Venables column

    Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back
    Michael Calvin: Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

    Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

    Those at the top are allowing the same issues to go unchallenged, says Michael Calvin