can you see the tunnel?

I’ve written before about retirement and what a busy time it is. I’d heard it said (I’m too busy, don’t know how I ever found time to work) but didn’t believe it, silly me. I told people and myself, before I retired, that my plan was to rebrand myself as a writer. This would be my new identity. My retirement days would be occupied by my literary efforts. Blogs would be written, articles and books published all on, what might loosely be described as, a time-tabled, semi-professional basis. I don’t need to repeat the stories about a lack of publications but I will say again how difficult finding time to write these blogs has been. I had anticipated moving around my other retirement activities to accommodate my writing times. In fact the opposite has been true, my writing has been squeezed to accommodate those other activities – vineyard (and just this week wine-making more of which in a later blog), gardening business, house renovation, visiting our different properties, dog-walking, music-making etc.

I’m still managing to turn out these blogs under the above pressure but there has been one unexpected consequence. I find I am writing about events before they have happened. Not in a mystical manner. Nor the whole event of course, but just making sure that I’ve done some of the preliminary / introductory work rather than leaving the whole thing until the day before. Let me explain. This coming weekend, which will be the weekend just gone by the time you read this blog, I am going to the Marsden Jazz Festival also known as Jazz in the Yorkshire Pennines (see image above, the graphic design inspired by the fact that one of the performances takes place in Britain’s longest canal tunnel, not sure how but that’s what it says in the publicity).I was invited by a friend who goes every year. Knowing my relatively recent interest in jazz he thought I might enjoy the event. You will have to wait until the end of this blog to find out whether I enjoyed it or not.

Will the weekend fit into my continued learning (about jazz) goal, will it simply be fun or, worst option, will my legendary distrust  of musical concerts resurface? Try reading my blog about The Eagles at the Leeds Arena as an example of my negativity towards gatherings of this type. I will have to wait three days to find out, you will need to be patient only to the end of this blog. Just while I’m on the jazz theme, a couple of updates. I’ve already mentioned my Otley jazz group. I’ve attended two of these so still too soon to pass judgement as to whether this might be a part, at least, of my missing link problem. I’ve also started, second session tonight, that’s last Wednesday for you, of evening classes on jazz piano at Leeds College of Music.

I wrote about my experience of this in the form of jazz for beginners or some such. Now I’m doing the advanced class. I’m a little anxious about this, have I bitten off more than I can chew? It’s quite ironic how I came to be doing this class in that I had rather thought I would repeat the beginner’s class. I rather enjoyed being better than everybody else, a rare feeling and, as such, one to be treasured. But then my one-time nemesis at Monday night jazz class and summer-school said he was planning on  doing the advanced class. It would have been more than my fragile ego could have coped with, him in the advanced and me in the beginners,  so I signed up for the advanced and guess what, he never showed up. So I am left with my anxiety about being out of my depth, not because I am pushing myself in a courageous sort of way, but because of my foolish pride. I will keep you informed as to how this deadly sin works out.

But before that let me tell you about my trip to the Marsden Jazz Festival. Plain old-fashioned fun or a learning experience? Inevitably a bit of both. The fun was in the form of a fantastic concert by the Doncaster Youth Jazz Orchestra (DYJO). They were outstanding, the only problem for the day, being that, as this was our first concert, what followed fell short. In fact, after dabbling with a couple of other performances, I decided to cut my losses and go home early. The DYJO concert was worth the four trains and two bus trips and the price of admission. Many thanks to my pal for chosing this one.

Looking at all those young people up there on the stage I was encouraged to remember my own musical youth and even to muse upon how my life might have been different if I’d taken my piano lessons when I was about 12, more seriously. I only agreed to lessons because my mother said we could have a television (I told her we were the only house in our street that didn’t have a TV, this in 1961, and that my development would be seriously impaired, not to mention my street cred, if we didn’t have a TV). So the deal was struck – get TV, have piano lessons. But I was a poor, i.e. reluctant student, I actually wanted to be a drummer but couldn’t persuade my mother to buy me a drum set. If she had that could have been me up there on the stage being very loud and very star-like. Damn. Still mostly no regrets.

The learning side of the day was more ambiguous. In this big band setting I learned that, unless you were the bass and the drums, as above, in the rhythm section, i.e. the guitar and piano, which happen to be my chosen instruments these days, you didn’t get much time (if any) in the spotlight. Solos were at a minimum and unlike the brass players, you didn’t get your name called out by the band-leader and applauded by the audience. I realised, this was my learning, that I may have made a poor choice of instrument if I wanted to be a star.  So learning did take place, but maybe not the kind of learning I had anticipated, but learning nevertheless.

So that, this far, is my jazz world, my main strategy (along with the vineyard) for life-long learning in retirement. It’s mostly a good thing but there are costs involved. All of which you will no doubt hear about as I continue these retirement chronicles.


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  1. Peter Wilkinson 1 year ago

    Signing up for an “advanced” class can be tricky. The first session of Year 5 Spanish Conversation was a bombshell! We had already heard that one of our classmates had not made the cut for progression from Year 4. Who was next? – if their pronunciation was not up to snuff or they would confuse the use of the preterite with the past perfect?
    Our beloved teacher went for a new-to-us “total immersion” technique and taught in the Spanish language for virtually the whole 2 hour session. How dare she? Were this bunch of retired teachers about to get a dose of their own medicine? Doesn’t she know we are just doing this for fun? It’s a social activity to ward off isolation and dementia?! We can’t remember what we did last week etc. Did she really think we had been completing our homework in the intervening 4 months since the last class, when we have so many competing interests? We are the cohort of active pensioners after all.
    The above is recognisable as the “pensioners’ defence”. Wasn’t adult education or life-long learning meant to meet the needs of the participants not the targets of the organisation? Anyway, we have all calmed down a little now after an email in English from the teacher “apologising for the shock of the new” but not offering any justification. Having paid a substantial fee, we will have to stay with it until at least 3 classmates fall on their sword (or “espada”) and the class folds giving a rebate to the rest. Negotiating with the teacher in Spanish about how we would like it to progress is going to be a challenge. We are going to have to get used to being dedicated and advanced language students – the teacher obviously thinks we are?! It would be too shameful to give up now. Better get back to the homework…..

    • Author
      summerhouse 1 year ago

      see my facebook reply

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