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On Friday, Karen came over after work for dinner, piano and Miyazaki.

We had Thai home delivery – the chicken kee mao noodles were very hot! To cool down, we had some mango sorbet which I had made the previous night from mangoes the Barrys brought over on Wednesday. Then Karen and I retreated to my room and belted out a few tunes – we sang Les Mis sweetly, Miss Saigon as cheesily as we could manage, Karen played a few pieces from the Pride and Prejudice score, and I blundered my way through a few Tori Amos songs. But, as always, I stopped in the tricky bits and fumbled my way through the easier bits. I realised it’s been so long since I’ve played anything at all other than church music, so I was very rusty!

Karen plays beautifully, and her instinctive fingering patterns show that she must have been much more diligent than I was at her technical work when she was learning piano. I hated scales and arpeggios and although I knew that there was a good reason for having to do them, I just wasn’t disciplined enough to do them. Not without much wailing and thumping of the keyboard, anyway.

It was great fun to sing with someone new. Singing in a group, or at church, or in public is one thing. But singing in a room with someone, just the two of you, sitting side by side on a piano stool, is quite an intimate experience. Well it is for me! There’s no distance or other voices or musicians to cover your voice or augment it. You’re sharing a particular mode of expression one-to-one with another person, a mode of expression that can’t help but be emotive and can’t help but expose something of yourself. So singing for the first time with someone new, when they’ve never heard your voice, or how good/bad you are, can be quite a daunting experience!

But of course, our voices sounded lovely together, it was lots of fun and I enjoyed it a lot. I am just so lucky to be able to make music with other people; it is one of the most enjoyable experiences in my opinion, particularly when you hit that sweet spot when everything is in sync and in harmony, and it’s almost like riding the crest of a wave. But it’s wonderful even when you make lots of mistakes and just have to laugh about it.

Then we adjourned to the lounge room to watch Whisper of the Heart, a delightful Studio Ghibli film written by Hayao Miyazaki. It’s Karen’s favourite Studio Ghibli film, and she wanted to watch with me. Just like Spirited Away, it was thoroughly enjoyable, perfectly observed, whimsical and constantly made me giggle. The films are just beautifully drawn, and the nuances of the characters are just so amazing – compared to most Western animations, they are just so much more visually appealing and layered, and have so much more in them. Thematically they are also a lot more complex than most Western animated films, especially ones whose protagonists are children. In Whisper of the Heart, we follow 14 year-old Shizuku as she learns more about herself, falls in love and decides she is going to be a writer. These are serious things and treated with respect, while still retaining all the clumsy sweetness and humour of being an adolescent in that situation.

So yes, I’m a new fan. I guess when people give me recommendations they’re usually worthwhile! (I have a habit of avoiding things that people try and hype up for me, but perhaps with certain friends I just have to trust that they know me well enough to recommend things I’d like…)