Where Did All The Music Go

On Saturday I did something pretty unusual (for me) and actually went out on my own for a little bit to a local acoustic music night. Being a big music fan, a guitar player, and in a decent venue I liked, I thought I couldn’t possibly miss the opportunity.

While the night overall was quite enjoyable, there were a few depressing conclusions I drew.

  1. I am old
  2. I used to be better than most of the people I saw
  3. I need to get out more

Most of the people at the venue were either clearly younger than me or were mostly younger than me. The only ones who were older were the parents of those singing! That was just an observation, but when you’re sitting on your own amidst a bunch of what were, effectively, kids, it didn’t make me feel all that comfortable.

The second point also grated a lot. Of all the acts there, I think I could say that, “in my prime” I was better than all of them.

In recent years, due to work, a crappy social life and a general lack of inclination, I have neglected my musical side. The guitar, the source of so much fun and enjoyment in my life – and the reason why I was able to do the US summer camp thing in the first place – has not occupied the place in my life that it used to. Certainly this year might be the least I’ve ever played it. So much so that I have lost a certain degree of my abilities. I’ve forgotten how to play things. My fingers aren’t as tough as they should be. Neither are my arm muscles. It’s all so feeble now.

My guitar abilities have never been all that good, but what I used to have was a decent voice, even if I do say so myself… the guitar was a means to an end. No one generally wants to hear an a capella vocalist. But people do like to listen to someone singing with an acoustic guitar accompaniment. I bash out a little rhythm guitar and sing. Honestly, I used to be reasonably good.

Now I am poor. Just like lack of guitar work, lack of singing has led to disaster. I’m sure I can’t sing anywhere near as well as I used to be able to. My voice has become weak and weedy.

It’s nothing a little practice wouldn’t fix. Maybe. But when you live with someone you hate, playing guitar and singing is not possible. Also, the walls are so paper-thin that if I practice vocalising at a normal volume, I don’t think I could ever look at my neighbours again.

What I need is a soundproof room to practice in. Ha, ha, ha.

Meanwhile, my third point is perhaps the most difficult of them all. I’ve always known I need to get out more, but I have singularly failed to do that, month after month, year after year. Something about not wanting to spend money because of how much I’m trying to save up to get out of here, but also the fact that a) going out on your own is usually rubbish, and a bit sad; and b) I don’t actually enjoy it all that much. I can’t help it.  I’ve always just been a bit hermit like. Sitting around in a room full of people I don’t know, most of whom are probably drunk, acting arrogant and boisterous, and all the while feeling pretty shy… it doesn’t hold any enjoyment for me at all. Being with friends can improve the situation, but I don’t have friends around here…

A little bit of music caused this train of thought. I shouldn’t have let it reach this stage. (is that a pun?)

The question is what can I do about it. Hmmm.

Olympic Sized Hole… Again

FOREWORD – turns out I wrote a post very similar to this four years ago. And I used the exact same title, until I realised and changed this one!

I haven’t written in a while, but there’s no great surprise there.

One of the reasons why has been that during the whole of the Olympic period, I spent it doing one of either two things: working and watching the Olympics. Oh, I suppose I did sleep as well, but it wasn’t that much.

At this point I would normally say something trite like “I’ve always loved the Olympics” but I don’t think it’s true. The earliest Olympics I can truly remember is Atlanta 1996, and being only 11 at the time, I don’t really think I paid much attention to it. After all, I disliked competitive sport a lot back then. Which kinda put paid to me watching anything of Sydney 2000. Sport just wasn’t my bag. I was such a bore.

Skip then to Athens 2004. By now my attitude to sport had changed, mainly because I was no longer being forced to do it in school. In truth, I still don’t remember much, despite being 19 years old. I worked throughout the summer, but I only had a part time job, so I could have watched a lot more. I remember some amazing gold medals, and maybe it lit a little spark, but I don’t remember consuming TV coverage as much as I did this time.

In 2008, I had just graduated, and was jobless. I watched Olympics. I watched any sport and every event under the sun. Except dressage, because that just baffled me. But the timezone wasn’t favourable. By the time I got up, half of the day’s events were over. But I would load up the BBC’s live text and read back what had happened overnight. It made up for it a little, but I still felt like I was missing out.

When London won the Games in 2005, I was really positive about it. In the seven years between then and now, I remained positive, despite years of British self-flaggelation on the subject. I knew if we could get behind it we’d actually learn to enjoy it.

Then, what happened in the past two weeks completely blew me away.

First of all, it has provided some great moments. For the past two weeks I have watched so much sport, but – beautifully – so many tales of human endeavour against the odds. So many tales of people setting themselves challenges, and succeeding. Disappointment and sorrow, yes, but all part of one of humanity’s greatest spectacles of co-operation and peace. The events themselves are competition, but somehow when viewed from above, the sum transcends that. It is the ability of the human race to engage each other in a triumph of personal struggle against adversity, of super-human feats of effort.

Secondly, I enjoyed it because of how it finally smashed British cynicism and brought together the nation. We finally learned to appreciate that we are good at some things after all, and we really can achieve greatness if we work together.

Thirdly, the Olympics have given me some new heroes. An overused word, perhaps, but one justified for such incredible athleticism. Bradley Wiggins, take a bow. And Laura Trott, too. Bloody jealous of you, Jason Kenny…

Fourthly, I had been enjoying watching sports I wouldn’t normally give a second thought to, and learning about some sports for the first time. Some were very good spectacles, like the beach volleyball, and others were just wonderful through the Herculean efforts of the participants: like in cycling and rowing. I was constantly in awe at those talents.

But most of all it has just been fun. Fun that is no longer with me. Fun that I had been so much looking forward to, and now is but a memory… with four whole years till the next jolly exercise.

I watched the Closing Ceremony on Sunday night fighting back the tears on a number of occasions. Yes, I know some of the singers were crap, and did indeed cause tears for the wrong reasons, but the overall display of united humanity was just too much. Some of the song choices were inspired. Elbow, twice. Everyone’s here. One day like this a year’ll see me right. And Eric Idle. Just perfect Britishness. And I don’t often use that word…

But then the following days I’ve almost been in mourning. I’m still consuming as much Olympic news as I can, desperate to cling onto something. And occasionally a memory will pop in of sporting triumph. I feel briefly happy, then wish it would all come back, and so become depressed!

Somehow, the football that starts for me and my team this weekend just won’t cut it any more. At last, I think I have finally had enough of football. The Olympics have made me see the light.

Famous last words…

Here’s to another Olympic-sized hole in four years time. Roll on Rio.