These days my handbag is heavy. (Alright, heavier.) It’s not a fancy laptop, or extra supplies of lip-gloss. Nestling at the bottom of my bag when I go to rehearsals now, between keys, wallet and crackberry, is a bundle of hammers.
Well, two hammers and a poker, to be precise, tied together with rubber bands. Yes, it looks odd. The fact that one hammer is a petite little number covered with V&A William Morris prints doesn’t really make my bundle look any less brutal. And no, I don’t fancy my chances at Airport security. Plus there’s the way I use it. As I hold the weighty bundle at one end, twisting it around with increasing strength, colleagues swerve out of the way, and stare in alarm. ‘Rosenna, what on earth is that?!’
It’s a physiotherapy exercise. One small, outwardly visible, sign of the inward work that has gone into being able to casually type the phrase above - ‘when I go to rehearsals’. I’ve also got two small scars on my left wrist from the wires that set my bone back perfectly straight. But apart from that, to look at me, I don’t think there’s much else to notice. On stage, I hope I look like just another one of the SCO violinists.
At home though, there are more clues to the journey I have taken since December 09. As well as a box of splints, squeeze balls and other physio toys, there are also my notes - some in my journal, and at a later stage, scribbled all over the music I was practising as part of my rehabilitation.
‘7th April open strings today for the first time. Afraid to touch the string.’
‘8th May YES! A semitone between the 1st and 2nd fingers (A String).’
‘1st June …even though I still can’t play the high notes, I can sort of move towards them, and I can see how I might be/will be able to play them.’
‘19th June Beethoven Concerto!’
I turned back to those notes when I felt discouraged. They were markers of how far I had come, pointing me onwards.
More important to me than the notes of course, were the physiotherapists to whom I turned - not just for treatment, but for encouragement and support: Ali, Katherine and Roma - three of five women, together with my surgeon Miss Middleton, and my mum, without whom I would not have got from the pavement in December to the Usher Hall in August.
I have been looking into Roma’s face since I fainted from the effort of summoning the courage to trust her enough - then a total stranger - to put my immobile wrist, and violin-playing life, into her hands. In February, I looked away from her in a rush of tears when she told me how long she thought it would take to recover. In the Spring, we looked at each other and laughed when, while demonstrating to her on my violin, in the middle of the Royal Infirmary’s rehabilitation unit, what I could and couldn’t do so far, another patient commented that it sounded to him like I needed a bit more practice. And in August, six months of twice weekly sessions later, I looked into her face to smile, as she sat in the stalls of the Usher Hall, waiting for our performance of Idomeneo to begin.
Finally she was not working, and I was - in my concert dress again, under the lights of the concert platform, and instead of hammers, my violin in my hand. Four hours later, I put down the violin, and we both picked up our champagne.
Postscript: Thankyou to everyone - medics, therapists, friends, family, colleagues, management, audience, neighbours, mechanics and musical charities - who have shown me such warm and generous support throughout this experience. Words fail.