Played the piano today.
Haven't touched one for 3 years, since life went pear-shaped and I had to sell mine. Have fiddled occasionally since that with plastic keyboards(ie, synths) but that's not at all the same thing: practical strings of notes for later editing, which make a different kind of music. No emotion involved.
Playing a piano is a physical and emotional experience. You hit it, stroke it, focus intently for precision on difficult runs, tenderly linger over dying chords, thunder dramatic triple-forte passages with your whole body and mind. I used to fling open the french windows and play Rachmaninov when there was a storm, Chopin when it was raining, Debussy on foggy days: the piano never minds how melodramatic you feel. There is only you and it, and what you can make it do. I have recordings of the things I used to play, but that's not the same. Pianos are interactive, and far more engulfing than passive listening.
When I lived with a piano, I used to play for at least two hours a day: practice drills, to get the fingers going, jazz runs, complicated rhythm exercises. Then favourite pieces, new difficult stuff, things I was making up, accompaniments for arias if I was in a singing mood. Sometimes friends would join in if they popped round while I was practising. (There are a surprising number of seemingly normal, hip people who are secretly able to belt out Schubert songs in German!) Sometimes better pianists than me would be coerced into sitting down and rattling off hideously complex runs I couldn't do. Everyone who came round, even three-finger merchants, played my piano. And, when it went, (off to the home of three scary children who have probably kicked it to death by now) I missed it. A lot.
So getting the chance to play on one today seemed like a good idea. Until I sat down, and realised, after a few minutes, that I could barely remember a thing. Before, I used to put my hands on the keyboard, and music just came out of the ends of my fingers. Now my hands have lost their memory. All my 'party pieces' have gone, all my special favourites. Not more than a few bars of anything emerged: my sister, who owns the piano, sat there, looking disappointed. Felt the loss. I had no idea one could lose a skill so fast. I wonder how long it would take to get it back again?