6 DECEMBER 2003, Page 52

Unexpected Passenger

Classic FM spills memories in my car as I drive northwards on the motorway; landmarks fly past with disconcerting speed — but I travel backwards: hear again the muffled boom of bells beneath the sea, a swish of censers swinging through the waves, the chant of salt-corroded psalms and plainsong drowned by the swell of the tide.

You play Debussy on the Steinway before dinner, and notes float up the stairs to summon me from the end of the dark passage where silence is my enemy.

I flit in my white nightdress to sit illicitly on the top step caught in a spell of sound while you conjure caverns and shells and a lost congregation.

Now, as the prelude fades, your presence lingers and I recall the tolling of another bell on a Welsh hillside feel again the airtight disapproval of the grown-ups at your way of life and all those talents scattered with such prodigality, but ... I thank you for the music that you gave a child.