Tuesday 5th June started for me at 08:00 in Leamington, we arrived at Evesham Tesco just before 10:00. We had a nice chat with the friendly Tesco staff and were assured that the enormous quantity of charcoal not sold during the Jubilee weekend was going to be moved out of the way of where the piano was going, which it was, only leaving a few racks of flowers to contend with (as seen in the last picture). Just as this obstacle was being moved out the way Vale Pianos turned up and offloaded their wonderful Kawai digital piano. It then took us just over an hour to set up the area with all the signs and the infamous computer with its webcam and dongle, more on that later....
Everything was set up by 12:00, the piano was working, the information was displayed, I was fed by the Costa Coffe shop, the only thing not ready was the computer which took over half an hour to reboot after not turning on properly. So I started anyway and about half an hour later I was told I was being streamed live to this blog.....it was not to last, unfortunately. We had been misinformed from the dongle company that uploading did not count towards out download usage of 0.25 GB, so after just over 1 hour of streaming we were cut off. Still I ploughed on, 'egged' on not least by my egg mayo sandwich but also by the support of the Tesco customers. Hours 1, 2 and 3 flew past as I was constantly hearing money clink into one of the collection jugs expertly held by my committed parents.
Hours 4 to 11 slowed down a bit and I had started to ache, require breaks and, most importantly, I had finished all the custard creams we had brought! As the rain began once again and hour 12 approached it was encouraging to see somewhat unlikely groups of teenagers giving so generously. 12 completed hours passed (seen in the photo) and thus I was into new territory, passing my previous 12 hour length of piano marathon, and it had turned into Wednesday 6th June. Of the hours that followed between midnight and the 04:00 sunrise were the most difficult. The bright lights of the foyer should have been enough to keep anyone awake, but if it hadn't been for my father constantly talking to me and buying me bits of food from the shop I think I would have fallen asleep. Hours went by with no donations, the most interesting thing at about 02:30 was two policemen going into Tesco to buy some food, then returning at about 03:30 to buy milk and kindly give a donation.
As the sun rose on the second day I realised that there seemed to be even fewer people coming into the shop and how most were so groggy and disoriented. By 06:00 I had gotten through eighteen hours, or 3/4 of the total...and roughly the same proportion of a box of millionaire's shortbread squares. Customer numbers picked up, the sun shone strongly, and I was reinvigorated, if a little cold, playing once more with some conviction. It seemed to work as by about hour 20 (08:00) a large proportion of the customers were donating and offering words of encouragement. As the hours slowly approached 24 the donations seemed to rise exponentially and my lack of sleep seemed to be unimportant. Once the final hour came to pass Tesco kindly announced on behalf of me thanking them, Vale Pianos and the Tesco customers.
Then it was finally over! Vale Pianos swiftly took the piano before the rain once again started, my parents helped me to pack everything away and we were in the car before 13:00, where I could nap after 29 hours of being awake...and the car journey was followed by 13 hours' sleep that night. Resulting in me, today, the day after the 24 hours before, being refreshed but still feeling the pains affecting my shoulders, back of my hands, knees, back and wrists, reminding me of my struggles not so long ago. The donations have helped me to almost reach my final goal of raising the whole cost of the trip, and not a moment too soon as I depart in under 1 month's time!!!
I would like to thank everyone who helped me along the fundraising journey, not only this event but for all the other events in the last 18 months. Without you I could never have gone on this charitable trip. Not only for the money but for the stories strangers and friends have told me, the encouragement I have been given and the phenomenal experience. During the long 24 hours the kind words from fellow piano players complimenting my playing (even offering me a job in a band!) or appreciative customers who enjoyed the music, kept my spirits up and helped me to look back on the event as being truly worthwhile and meaningful rather than simply a struggle of endurance.
Finally I would like to say a special thank you once again to Vale Pianos for providing the wonderful digital piano, to Tesco for providing the venue, for all the kind donors during the 24 hours, the newspapers for taking an interest in the cause and finally to my parents who endured those 24 hours, helped with logistics and stuck with me in every effort to make this a successful event. Without these kind people the piano marathon could not have happened.