Weedon’s Wanderings: 12th February 2020

Me on a bike

LIKE RIDING A BIKE

I wonder how many times in my life, I’ve heard this lament: “I had some piano lessons as a kid, but if I sat down at one now I couldn’t play a note! I just didn’t appreciate then what a wonderful thing I was missing out on. But I decided I’d rather play football/be out with my friends/fill in as appropriate”.

Often the lessons were rejected because “the piano teacher was a real dragon, and used to slap my knuckles with a ruler.” Or maybe the person got to a good level on an instrument, but as an adult found their family and work responsibilities stole all their time. And when they finally sat down to have a play after a gap of months or years, it was as if they were beginners once again. And that felt so depressing they gave up.

I suddenly realised what this felt like yesterday. I learned to drive on a car with a manual gearbox, and drove happily with gears for decades. In fact, I revelled in changing gear either smoothly or, sometimes, with rather sporty elan. Double de-clutching was fun! I carried on with it long after synchromesh gear boxes made it unnecessary.

Then we got an automatic vehicle just because it was a nice car. I really missed those gears at first, but traffic queues are much better when you’re not constantly going in and out of first gear. When we next changed cars I was glad it was another automatic. As of yesterday morning, I’d not used a clutch and gear lever in years...

So there I was, confronted with a manual gearbox in a vehicle we’d just acquired, and needing to move off up a hill. I had absolutely NO memory of how to do it. I panicked. What did I need to do first? It took me minutes to recall that I needed to clutch out, engage gear, then balance the accelerator and clutch against releasing the handbrake. But once I remembered all that, I got a tremendous buzz from using a skill long forgotten. After that, the whole gearbox experience came flooding back to me and it was heady fun to be doing something I’d neglected.

If you used to play an instrument, but the years have descended like a fog on the whole thing, I’d encourage you to calmly edge into that mist and see what you can remember. It will feel scary and hopeless to start with, but it’s still all ‘in there’ somewhere, and finding it again will be thrilling. And if you don’t fancy blundering around on your own, get a guide - best of all, a real live teacher, or a good instruction book or video. Like slashing your way through an overgrown garden, you will find all sorts of treasures ready to sprout again with new vigour once they receive some light!

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