Castlemaine, Victoria, 2018

In Hamlet, Polonius says to his son:
Neither a borrower nor a lender be
For loan oft loses both itself and friend

 

He was talking about money, but what about borrowing a guitar – or, say, a cello?

A couple of years ago my friend Deborah said to me – would you like to borrow my cello?

And at first I said no – but she persuaded me – and then I said yes – and then
I borrowed her cello and I had some lessons.

You can borrow it for as long as you like, Deborah said.

You just never know when the devil is whispering in your ear, do you.

She said she was never going to need it again.

I joined a local community orchestra.

There’s over thirty people with every kind of instrument – cellos, yes, but also harps and clarinets and trumpets and triangles – everything. Saxophones.

And this orchestra plays just about everything too – arrangements of Sound of Silence, Danny Boy, Beethoven’s Fifth, and Here Comes the Sun.

Here Comes the Sun is one of my favourites from Abbey Road – that and Maxwell’s Silver Hammer – well Here Comes the Sun is a hyper-favourite – it isn’t just that it’s about spring and sunrise – it’s about optimism – and the ice is slowly melting and everything is all right.

So, armed with the borrowed cello, I could get with those thirty people and their harps and things and get inside the song, and actually make the song, and give the song to anybody listening.

The orchestra has a concert every Christmas in the Town Hall – bliss – Here Comes the Sun was on the playlist – and there’s nothing quite like the audience of family and friends – as we built to our crescendo and we all went off – the audience went off too – and there was optimism ringing round the rafters of the town hall. Here Comes the Sun.

You can see that I had long since chosen to ignore the wisdom of Polonius. Lulled into happy ignorance and excited optimism. Why didn’t I get my own cello and return the other one to Deborah? I knew I was ignoring reality – why do people do that – ignore reality? I really could have just gone out and bought my own cello way back – I see that now.

And so – not long after that whooping great performance of my hyper-favourite song in the town hall – Deborah decided to recall the cello.

You know how it is when the sun is high in the sky – and a big dark cloud comes suddenly blowing in and – well I think I’m imagining a kind of eclipse really –

When she said that – when she said – I need the cello back – I said sure – yes – of course – and I went home and got it and gave it back to her with a tragic little block of rosin, a bottle of wine, and a big smile.

But oh – inside my stupid broken heart was weeping. I think there were two parts to this – one was that the whole thing was sudden, a shock, coming after the concert and so forth. The other thing was that I had always known I had to give it back – and I should have listened to Polonius. Neither a borrower nor a lender be. We were both wrong – me and Deborah – we are still friends, by the way.

But wait – there’s still the song isn’t there – what does the song say – it says that everything’s going to be OK anyway – here comes the sun – and I will get my own cello, and next time, maybe – I’ll listen to Polonius.

Carmel Bird is a writer of both fiction and non-fiction. Her first collection of short stories appeared in 1976. Since then she has published novels, essays, anthologies, children's books and also manuals on how to write. Carmel was the 2016 winner of The Patrick White Literary Award. Field of Poppies, a novel, will be published in November 2019