The word ‘journey’ seems to slip ever further from its moorings – as the distance travelled in a day – as time goes on. It has in a very real, and modern, sense been on a journey. Any fool given exposure to a wider public via a glowing screen will attempt to describe some more-or-less trivial, curated set of their life events as a journey. Never one to ignore a band-wagon, let’s explore how high, and or far, I can jump in my attempt to gain a free ride. As you will have come to expect, this exploration will take place through the medium of a blog post: I’ll leave the humiliatingly public route to brief, vapid and bland pop fame until after I’ve sucked every last morsel of marrow from the dry bones of my life. To put your fears at rest, no sharks were harmed in the making of this post.
Of course, even as I lay under my crumpled duvet last night desperately seeking sleep – or even Susan (I was growing desperate…) – I was on a journey. Whilst my bed remained (virtually) static relative to my flat, Southampton and the local tectonic plate, we were all whirling in some extraordinarily complex set of super-imposed translations and rotations though the fabric of space-time. While some of these motions were more than glacial slow – my gradual parting from the New World, for example – many were occurring at frankly breakneck speeds. Or so it will seem, many years in my future, to an observer located somewhere beyond the furthest reaches of the Virgo supercluster. Is it any wonder that when I finally left my organic cotton-swaddled cocoon I did not feel entirely refreshed?
I sometimes feel that much of my life is spent in a futile effort to exhaust both my mind and body to the extent that they sign up to some sort of nightly treaty to allow me eight uninterrupted hours of great nature’s second course. Well, it’s either that or a desire to spare myself the company of my own, unaccompanied thoughts.
Of late this blog has, perhaps, tended to matters of the mind so I thought we’d start today’s outpouring with the physical. My long-running plan to run away to the circus had to be put on a hold for a while last year while my broken wrist healed. It then took a little time to return to the peak (more a molehill than Olympus Mons) of physical perfection that I had previously been taking for granted. With the start of a new year, and with the front and back-levers continuing to improve, I decided that 2018 needed a new – and foolish – gymnastic physical project for me to attempt. So, I have decided that 2018 will be the year that I achieve the human flag: let’s face it, it looks like people will always need flags. With countries continuing to fragment, I can see opportunities opening up to become the official flag for a tiny new nation! My plan might also be linked to the fact that I’ve seen it described as ‘arguably the most visually impressive bodyweight feat of strength anyone’s ever come up with‘.
This is not going to be easy: partly because of my advanced age but mostly because I’m annoyingly long in limb and body which means that my effort, fulcrum and load are very poorly placed to reap any mechanical advantage. I strongly suspect my physical frame will be delivering mechanical disadvantage to my cause. However, I am not the sort of cove to be put off by the apparent lunacy of a project and so the training has begun. At the moment, at those times at which this most resembles an attempt to perform the human flag, my own movements most closely resemble the flailing of a beached mermaid. This is partly down to a lack of strength and/or flexibility in the relevant parts of my body but also down to a failure to apply the powers I do possess in any constructive way.
As the snapshots above might illustrate, while I can haul myself off the deck parallel to the plane of my sternum (the more impressively-named, but much easier to achieve, dragon flag), anything in the perpendicular plane is much less effective. Still, I think I am slowly working out how to apply my effort via a more effective set of fulcra to shift the load. In the meantime, I can’t help wondering if the south coast needs a drag tribute act to Bette Midler in her guise as Dolores deLago? We would have to transpose the songs down an octave or two – or my costume would have to be eye-wateringly tight – but I’m game… (not for the tight tailed option!)
The other journey which will add the ‘mens sana‘ in today’s ‘corpore sano‘ will be a musical one. In pursuit of another lunatic project – to become a concert (or jazz) pianist (why couldn’t I have chosen the much easier and more traditional path of fast cars and inappropriately youthful female company?) – I have been delving ever deeper into chord theory. I find this absolutely fascinating and find myself playing with chords when sat at the keyboard – and when I am supposed to be practicing! So many well-known tunes, or fragments thereof, are based on some relatively simple transitioning between chords. There are many ways to move from one chord to another and some of these journeys are more interesting and/or satisfying than others. I have discovered that this as an area in which I have Views as heading back to the home key too quickly or directly was clearly very dull leading me to accidentally re-discovered cadences. While at a concert last weekend, I found I knew where Beethoven was going at various point of his 3rd Piano Concerto but could admire the glorious route he took to reach his destination. I was also left in awe of John Lill’s beautiful technique at the piano: would that my younger wrists and fingers had such poise and bounce.
In a possibly successful attempt to head off the launch of yet another project, my piano teacher treated me to a boy’s first accordion lesson on Monday. This is a somewhat terrifying device comprising, as it does, 72 tiny buttons (though it can be as many as 120) arrayed in 12 slanted rows of 6 which one is supposed to control with the fingers of your left hand. Worse, you cannot see any of the buttons whilst doing this – though three do have a slightly different feel: two have a cross (E and A flat) and one is concave (middle C). Even worse, I am trying to sense this minor haptic difference using the tips of the fingers on my left-hand: fingertips whose sensitivity has been mangled by holding down steel guitar strings. I tried to channel my youthful skill at reading Braille playing cards while playing cribbage with my blind uncle, but I fear those neurons have moved on to better things (or their eternal rest). I found that as soon as a finger lost contact with middle C, I was all at sea (do you see what he did there?) with digits flailing wildly around the forest of buttons in the hope of encountering either one of the three marked trees or the forest’s edge and working back: which I believe is an important technique for wild navigation at night without a compass. The keyboard side of the instrument was less problematic, albeit at an angle only previously experienced when attempting to play the piano while prone (or attempting the human flag). I am now much more impressed when I see an accordionist in action, particularly one who is particularly free and easy with their left hand.
I think for now I shall confine my musical voyage to the piano, guitar and a selection of available woodwind. Perhaps I’ll take up something percussive and portable: I quite fancy an egg. Or perhaps the melodica could be stepping-stone to the accordion – it uses a bellows (the player’s lungs – unless he has a footman, groom or valet for that kind of thing) and a keyboard at an unexpected angle. I could also try texting with my left hand and wearing a blindfold as further preparation…
Still, in the hope of sneaking in under the unofficial word count I try and impose on my text-based largesse, I think this is a good point to bring this particular journey to its conclusion.