When you’re writing a weekly blog, you sometimes find that you’re going to have to make a personal admission or two in order to wring another page out of the same old subject matter. You think of a subject and then wonder how you can relate it to the core of what you generally write about?
So, here’s my revelation to start this week; I’m quite a fan of folk music. Now, bear with me! I know this is akin to stating that you’re quite into poetry (eherm…that’s for another time) or maybe knitting, and it conjures up images of beards, flat beer, fiddles and milk bottle glasses. But, for me, some of my favourite songs of all time come from this genre and, I think, my life would be poorer if I’d never discovered them.
What has this got to do with retirement, I hear you ask? Well, I went to see Richard Thompson the other night in Sheffield. Who? It’s such a shame that you have to ask. You’ve probably heard of Hendrix, Clapton and maybe even Jimmy Page but, in my opinion, this bloke could play any of them off the stage. You can look up his career on Wikipedia and, no doubt, you’ll still be none the wiser, but treat yourself to a listen of The History of Fairport Convention and you’ll hear some of the best songs ever written or sung in the history of (not so) popular music.
As I sat nursing my beer in the Civic Hall before the concert started, I couldn’t help but feel I was on a pensioner’s day out. I was one of the youngest in the audience. Richard Thompson himself is pushing seventy, but he strolled on stage and proceeded to sing and play guitar for the next two hours like he was forty years younger.
God, what I’d give for even a scintilla of his musical talent, but I learned early at school that even the recorder was beyond my ability to master. When I took “early retirement”, one of the things on my bucket list was a notion to take guitar lessons. After all, I was pretty adept on the Xbox Guitar Hero, so how hard could it be? Well, it didn’t happen because there’s a subtle difference between goals and dreams, and a massive effort of time and will to turn some of the latter into the former. And, sometimes, you have to recognise your limitations in not just time but ability too. Of course I’d love to play the guitar like Richard Thompson, but I’d also love to cycle from Land’s End to John O’Groats (before tackling the Pacific Coast Highway) and I know which of these goals are within my reach. If I have a spare hour a day, perhaps they’d be better spent on the bike as opposed to trying to master Stairway to Heaven? Yes, I know I could do both – although not at the same time – when I have the whole day to fill. But the reality was that, when every day was my own, I found other things to do.
One of my favourite aphorisms is “The best time to plant a tree was twenty years ago. The second best time is now.” Another is, “If you want to do something, ask a busy man”. As the winter nights draw in, I find myself beginning to think “How about learning the bass guitar?” Perhaps I could start with just an hour a night on a workday? I could do that, couldn’t I? Maybe I should look for local lessons?
You never know. Watching Richard Thompson plying his trade as a pensioner was, apart from a lot of other things, inspiring. He maintains he’s still learning how to play guitar and no doubt this challenge helps him get out of bed every day and keeps him young at heart. When I next retire, I want to have a few things I’m learning to master. Blog writing will still be one of them, as will riding a bike with steady ninety cadence, but I hope to have a few more on the list. Keeping to the aphorisms, “A journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step”, and that first step is to write your goals down. I haven’t done that for ages. Time to go and do so now…..
P.S. Title Inspiration:
Who Knows Where the Time Goes