Mr Dompling’s Secret was one of my favourite books when I was young. It told the story of a classical cellist, keen on Mozart. It had themes of overcoming fears, of being comfortable in your own skin – and of course there was music. Lots of music.
It was my introduction to classical music – I found this piece because it is referenced in the book. (Of course I would have heard some classical music before reading Mr Dompling’s Secret, but it was after re-reading the book that I actually sought out my first classical to purchase; a cheap Best of Mozart-styled cassette tape).
I was probably six, seven years old when I was reading and re-reading this book…
The years get away on you. As they have a habit of doing. As many of you will know, my one great achievement in life, outside of raising the ire of local music fans, is that I found someone prepared to love me. Her name is Katy. She is a writer. Her grandmother wrote books too.
So, a couple of years ago my mother calls. She never calls. It’s my job to ring her. So I figure this must be something really important.My dad must have a new shed! But no. Mum had found a book. She had found Mr Dompling’s Secret. And she had noticed that the author of it was a Diana Robinson. Katy’s grandmother – a writer of children’s books – is also named Diana Robinson. Is this some coincidence? Could it be the same person? Then mum wonders if actually it is one of Katy’s books perhaps, even though it seems (overly) familiar.
As soon as I saw the cover (see picture above) a flood of memories came back. It was definitely my book. One of my favourites. (You know how, as a child, it’s about the images – more so than words, titles. As soon as I saw the cover I could recall the story in the pages of Mr Dompling’s Secret.)
And inside the book it is dedicated to Katy – Diana Robinson’s first grandchild. So here, 25 years after I had read the book, I am standing holding the same copy. With my wife – whose grandmother wrote it; whose name is in the book, it is dedicated to her. And one of the main characters in the book is named Katy.
We couldn’t wait to tell Katy’s grandmother about this bizarre, happy coincidence. Diana, or “Didy”, a believer in fate, in magic, in all things wonderful, loved this story.
And I thought that it might make an interesting blog-topic. I had meant to write about it a year or so ago. But I worried that maybe it would not be that interesting to others. It’s a neat story (as far as I’m concerned). And the book – though fiction – is most certainly about music. So it does qualify for inclusion here at Blog on the Tracks.
But I didn’t write about it then. I decided to write about it now.
Yesterday we attended the funeral for Didy and for her husband, Katy’s grandfather, Andrew “Robby” Robinson.
They died between Christmas and New Year – just 26 hours apart. Theirs was a true love story. (See here for the story published in The Press about them.)
Didy and Robby attended our wedding, five years ago almost to the day. Didy was petrified of flying but they made the journey; she would not miss her eldest granddaughter’s special day.
The advice from Robby and her that will stay with us forever was the simple line, “never stop holding hands”.
It is almost as if the thought that Didy could no longer hold Robby’s hand was too much for her. So, 26 hours after he passed she joined him. They will be holding hands now forever.
I re-read Mr Dompling’s Secret on the plane down to Christchurch for the funeral. Of course it has a whole new poignancy now. But I realised, only then, beyond the magic of me (unknowingly) meeting the real person behind the character in one of my favourite books and sharing my life with her, beyond getting to know the author of the book that had given me so much pleasure (without actually knowing at the time that she was the author) Mr Dompling’s Secret was also – technically – the first book about music that I read.
And Didy and Robby were two of the most amazing people I have ever met. Generous to a fault, interested in everyone else first, so giving of their time, energy, money – they not only lived amazing lives, but allowed many others to do so too.
I realise, writing this now, that Didy gave me the gift of her granddaughter – and of a curiosity towards music, a keenness to seek out music, to understand it, to be enchanted and intrigued by its beauty. Two things I’ll be forever grateful for.
Between late 2007 and early 2016 I wrote a daily music blog at Stuff.co.nz called Blog On The Tracks. I’m reposting some of the entries here because the discussion is still valid or entertaining or because you might have missed them the first time.
Click here to see the original post from 2011.