School: Larbert High School, Falkirk
I could hear her marching around the hall as I came tentatively down the stairs. Her long black coat clipped the back of her boots as she moved: she was a formidable sight. “Please don’t make me go,” I croaked as a wave of terror washed over me. She shot me a look which told me resistance was futile.
“Hurry!” she commanded. “Bring your case and papers.”
And that was it. We left in the cold, grey light of early morning. I looked around at the houses in our street and I imagined my neighbours still asleep, safe and warm in their beds, as we sped along in the car. It started to rain by the time we reached the main road. The sky became darker and blacker until the storm broke; the noise of crashing thunder struck further fear into my heart and I prayed to be anywhere other than here.
Then of course - stupid me - my prayer was answered.
“This is it. Come on,” she instructed.
I feebly picked up my belongings and pulled them from the car. We made our way across the deserted street, the silence only broken by the clicking of her heels on the tarmac. An imposing, windowless, square building loomed before us. As we approached the entrance, the officious guard analysed me through his round spectacles. He knew my fate. I felt sick.
“Papers!” he demanded.
With shaking hands, I gave him my documents. He diligently checked them over before letting us inside. We walked for an eternity up a twisting stone staircase, my case getting heavier with every step. The light was dim, supplied by bleak wall lamps which cast eerie shadows before me. We eventually reached the third floor. My final destination.
“Stay here. You have five minutes,” she informed me and left, leaving me gasping for breath and trembling uncontrollably. I thought of my life and the foolish decisions I had made. I had brought this all upon myself. There was no escape: with no windows, the guard at the entrance and the only other door was in front of me - one I definitely did not want to go through. I was trapped, waiting for my doom, almost feeling my last seconds tick by on my watch.
On cue, the door opened. A small, reedy man with very pale skin was standing on the other side. Without speaking, he ushered me in, gesturing to me to be quiet. All around there were strange noises: torturous wails and grim screeching. Soon that would be me. My heart began to beat so hard its drumming drowned the murderous sounds out. I followed the little man to the end of the corridor. My tormenter was there waiting for me. He stood up. He was huge: at least seven feet tall- I had no chance. He bent down to extend his giant hand out towards me and I froze in his glare: his ice blue eyes boring deep into my soul. I could see every line on his face and thought of the others here before me that would have seen these deep ravines.
“I’ll help you with this,” his said in an accent I vaguely recognised. He took my case and opened it. He passed me my book then took out the instrument to be used to finish me. Smiling warmly, he brought it towards me. “In your own time.”
Swallowing hard, I picked it up and shakily played for my life. Actually it went quite well. Second piece was better, third piece best. Scales were perfect, sight reading hopeful.
“Thank you,” Mr O’Donnell said. “I’ll let you know soon.”
As I left the building, I noticed the sun had come out. And there was my mother waiting for me - looking much better as she had taken off her black coat.
“Feeling better?” she asked.
A week later I did as I handed her the certificate: Grade One guitar examination, Royal College of Music, passed with distinction.