Thursday, October 6, 2016

7th October 2016 - Immersion as a Birthday Gift

Today's my birthday.  I'm sure from my name you can do a little math.

A birthday is as good a time as any to take a little stock and see what you're doing and what you need to get doing.  So I suppose this blog, diary, confessional is just that  - a small way of taking stock and giving myself a nudge in the right direction.

When I was working in the college library the college librarian, an imposing man but whom I found very friendly, Thomas Kabdebo made what, to him, was perhaps a casual remark but to me stuck (funny how the strangest things stick isn't it?).
He told me that men collect or try to master something.  He collected dictionaries and I was later to work with him on the second edition of his Dictionary Of Dictionaries (an interesting idea - a reference of things to be referenced - were we working on the book form of google?) .. anyway .. I always liked that idea of mastering and collecting.  I thought about it often since.  Maybe it is to do with the evolutionary need to master a tool .. create a better utility .. collect a useful implement.  I don't really know .. but I have observed it to be true.  Men's sheds and all that.

That's all a long winded way (both a pun and perhaps a theme of these blogs) of getting onto what this is all about.  Where did the idea start?  My Mother used to talk about my Grandfather Patrick Daly playing in a pipe/fife band in Corduff in Monaghan.  He was also a beautiful whistler - a local man who went off to the US to join the priesthood on his return years later requested to hear Patrick Daly whistle .. apparently he could be heard whistling the mile or two up the dirt lane from the road to their farmhouse.

I'm not sure where the idea started but when I was in that college I mentioned I bought a wooden flute.  Still have it.  Just a cheap flute from Walton's in Dublin.  I put up a notice on the Music department board and a chap (I sadly can't think of his name now - but a lovely fellow) replied saying that he'd give me free lessons on a Wednesday night if I could stay over in our student house (9 of us staying in a 4 bed house!).  To a poor student this was a win-win and I started lessons with him - this would have been around 1992 or 1993.

To my shame I didn't keep it up.  Flute playing or perhaps anything that involves a real skill is one of those things that you have to both immerse yourself in and 'break the back' of.  You have to be part of that world - playing, knowing the tunes, going to sessions, knowing people etc.  And you have to get good enough to make all of that worthwhile.  You can't play so badly that you're afraid of taking out the instrument.  I did neither.  I didn't know anyone playing .. didn't know sessions .. didn't get involved with a group .. and most importantly didn't master the instrument well enough to be able to pick it up and bang out tunes.  There's a moment when you're learning to drive when it's all gear sticks and peddles and you're panicking trying to multitask and not die.  Then comes a eureka moment when you forget you're actually controlling the car and you're able to observe and drive - the 'trick' of the driving slips away and you're just travelling down the road.

A few years ago I felt the years go by without my doing anything.  I still had the same flute.  I'd pick it up.  Try again.  You can always find excuses - I'd a demanding job, kids, was doing courses, relationship etc etc - but you can always find time if you really want to - so I'm not allowing myself to wallow in those excuses.  I joined comhaltas in Clane, Kildare and that was great progress.  I set myself a target - by October 2019 I'd deserve a decent flute.  Well - I'd never deserve the flute I was aiming for but I said to myself that life is short - if I set that bar high I'd at least setting myself a very high bar to play towards.  It would be terrible to try to get a decent flute with bad playing.
Now I admit that I'd also just love to own this particular flute - it's a thing of beauty in itself - but I also aim to spend the rest of my days enjoying this instrument by being able to knock a half decent tune out of it and when I slip off this mortal coil it will be a decent memento for the offspring (did I mention my Mother was from Monaghan - that is definitely the Monaghan in me to be talking like that!)

So here I am again.  Three years after first contacting him I wrote to Patrick Olwell again asking him if I was still good for that 6 keyed blackwood flute for October 2019?

So the road to Massies Mill is the story of my final stretch towards the Olwell flute on my 50th birthday.  Hopefully it will be a story of practice, tunes and embracing the world of Irish music and culture.  You have to immerse yourself or there's no point.

Have you given yourself the gift of immersion in something you truly love?
get stuck in!

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