From foster care in Stevenage to piano tuning in Harrods - author tells his entertaining story

The cover of Steven Harris' book The Man from Harrods.

The cover of Steven Harris' book The Man from Harrods. - Credit: The Book Guild Ltd

From foster care in Stevenage to piano tuning in Harrods... a new memoir charts an author's unusual and unexpected career.

It’s a pretty boring job, tuning pianos? Anyway, isn’t it a dying craft now?

The Man from Harrods: Turner's Round - Pianos, Patrons and Patience' gives an insider's view of Steven Harris' years as a piano tuner in London’s most famous department store.

He said: “I wrote this book because there weren’t any similar books covering the topic; piano tuning to most people is a bit of a mystery."

The cover of Steven Harris' book The Man from Harrods, published by The Book Guild Ltd

The cover of Steven Harris' book The Man from Harrods, published by The Book Guild Ltd - Credit: The Book Guild Ltd

How and why did the author – brought up in foster care in Stevenage and leaving school with virtually no qualifications whatsoever – get offered a position as a teenage trainee piano technician at the prestigious emporium of the rich and elite?

The son of composer and Cornish bard William Lewarne Harris, Steven left school with few prospects. 

He spent his childhood in children’s homes in Hertfordshire, Surrey and Stevenage.

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"My links with Hertfordshire proved to be quite long lasting after the early break up of my father’s marriage," said Steven.

"Unusually, it was my mother who disappeared from the scene, so myself and siblings were promptly put into care at Hill House, an under-fives children’s home in Wormley and Broxbourne.

"From there we were sent to the rather infamous Beechholme in Surrey, but from nine to 16 I was placed in foster care in Stevenage."

On being reunited with his father in London as a teenager, he succeeded in being taken on as a highly skilled piano tuner and technician for Harrods Ltd, attending to the needs of numerous well-known London institutions along with the rich and famous clientele of store.

Showing patience with a family heirloom... piano tuner Steven Harris.

Showing patience with a family heirloom... piano tuner Steven Harris. - Credit: Steven Harris 

Steven said: "I remember the careers teacher at Barnwell School asking me what I wanted to do.

"At the suggestion of my dad, who felt pianos would always need tuning, I put this to him, which seemed to flummox him.

"Eventually, though, I returned to London and was fortunate in being taken on as a trainee piano tuner and technician. How the other half live!

"After qualifying, I often visited the homes of the wealthy and also a few famous ones, too."

Steven later returned to education as a mature student and qualified as a teacher, then teaching in London schools.

"After a good few years in the piano trade, I decided to ‘correct’ my CV," he said. 

"I’d left school with no qualifications but managed to return to higher education as a mature student.

"That former careers teacher would no doubt be surprised to learn that the rather shy and dull boy of 16 mumbling about piano tuning eventually became a qualified teacher.

"I never taught in Stevenage, but did spend time as a teacher in Harpenden…”

Steven Harris now divides his time between South London and Kent, where he continues to teach and write.

Published by The Book Guild, The Man from Harrods is priced £8.99.

Steven added: “As the blurb suggests, you don’t have to know about or be interested in pianos to enjoy the book, which is more about social interaction and the funny or poignant moments encountered by a rather naïve youth finding his feet even though very shy.

"The book is about human life and what makes people tick, it is both informative and entertaining.

"Additionally, it provides a rare insight into the workings of the large, glossy and famous department store, Harrods, as seen by one who worked there for over a decade.”

For more, visit The Book Guild website www.bookguild.co.uk

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