This blog is a bit delayed because Mrs Summerhouse made me rewrite bits of it because she felt they did not accurately reflect my character. Blimey. You know this retirement business is turning out to be rather weird in some ways. Well that’s the end of term and the year for my jazz workshops. Time to review my first full year as a jazz guitarist. I know I said I’d left this workshop and joined another but I lied, I remained in the same one. I told the workshop organiser that I was leaving and she begged me to stay. We can’t afford to lose players of your talent and skills, she said. Actually that’s a lie as well. She suggested that, as we were having a new tutor with a somewhat different approach to teaching, I might care to stay on and see if his style suited me any better. So I did and it hasn’t been too bad. Problem is, and of course with my retirement projects there had to be one, the problem is that tutor style was only a part of my dissatisfaction with this learning jazz project.
In addition to this there are two other key areas around judgement as to whether this is a good idea or otherwise, can be made. One, there is the question of whether I’m improving in my learning how to play jazz guitar. You may well think that this is the main one and probably so it should be. And I actually think I am improving, enough to feel a certain pleasure in my progress all things being equal. The problem (again that word) is that all other things are not equal. The second key area is the social side of things. I’m pretty sure that when people my age join some sort of ‘group’ they do so as much for the social side of things as the topic / content of the workshop, in this case learning to play jazz guitar. And here’s where it’s not working for me at all. I have said before that there are two other male guitarists in the workshop and I cannot work out either their relationship with each other, nor what their relationship with me might be other than the current one which is to pretty much totally ignore me. I suspect they are partners and that perhaps one or the other sees me as some kind of threat – I am a damned attractive man though I say it myself (not really, I just put that in for the sake of my theory). On those odd occasions that our tutor decides to pair us off or work in threes on a task as happened last night, it can be quite excruciating. Last night we were working on rhythms, we had to choose one from a number of possibilities. They of course chose their favourite and then played it and then looked at me with that, oh God, must we talk to him, look, he’s not in our gang and he’s hopeless. OK, I may be laying it on a bit thick but at times it feels that way. Reality or paranoia? Who the hell knows.
Yes, I hear you say I think the problem here is with you Pete, your attitude to them being gay (if they are) is preventing you from fully engaging, whatever that might mean in the context, with these two guys and the fact that they happen to be better guitarists than you and that you occasionally are forced to ask for their help and that makes you feel inferior to these men, is causing you to feel even further out of your comfort zone than simply attending the workshop might make you feel. Throw into the melting pot the fact that they are friends and you don’t have any in this group, well at all really, and you’re just plain jealous of their comradely spirit. I suppose at this point the writer might say, prejudiced me, get out, some of my best friends are gay but then I’ve already admitted I don’t have any friends so that’s not going to ring true. Well if all this were true what a pathetic human-being I would be and, before I get every gay man out there bombarding me with abuse, let me say none of the above represents any prejudice, or if it does, I’ve buried it so deep that I cannot recognise it.
Whatever the truth, the fact is that the rather odd dynamics of the class – me and them as the three guitarists in the group – actually, as of the last two meetings, this is not quite true because another (good) guitarist has joined the group but it hasn’t really altered the dynamics of the group that much because he is foreign. What do you mean, not only homophobic but a Nigel Farrage supporter to boot? No, no, this is all coming out wrong. I simply meant he is rather quiet. I’m merely trying to explain why, in the absence of any great musical skill, the lack of ‘friendship’ or almost any kind of social support and, bearing in mind that, even though I don’t have any friends, I generally regard myself as quite strong on the social front, certainly compared to the musical front at least, is hitting me hard. I’ve got nobody to empathise with whereas the two chums sit there comparing their chords and giggling, well laughing at least. I feel left out. No, I’m not prepared to sleep with one of them or both, to be accepted. Take me, not literally, for my musical talent or leave me alone. Clearly their choice is to leave me alone.
So who’d have thought that a review of my jazz workshop should focus so little on the music and so much on the social dynamics. I have to admit that it’s been fairly typical of my retirement projects that they are complex way beyond any acceptable predictions of what the experiences might be like. In fact I could say that of the whole of my retirement life, it just hasn’t gone according to any plan I had and any ideas of what my life would be like. The whole thing is a bit Twilight Zone like. Almost recognisable, but a bit out of focus. I mean who the hell would think that, when sitting down to consider the pleasure or otherwise that I would experience from one area – jazz workshops –, I should end up writing about my classmates and my envy of their obvious closeness (not to mention talent). Lucky them I say, but that’s because I’m a great (albeit retired) guy really, not a bad bone in my whole body. Retirement, it’s a messy business, it can pull you out of shape if you’re not careful..