Another Dream That Never Came True

Monday 6 February, 2012

When I was about seven, I wanted to play the violin.

I’d always liked the sound of the violin, I liked the way they looked and I thought they were a lot more impressive than a guitar. Which is saying something, because I was pretty fascinated by my Dad’s guitar.

And even though I kept saying that I wanted to play the Violin, I think initially my Mum brushed it off as a flighting fancy. I was a hyperactive whirl wind of a child, and I couldn’t decide on what I wanted to be when I was older. I got bored with games quickly and I would flit from one thing to the other and back again to keep myself constantly entertained.

I’d be lying if I said I’d completely grown out of that now, but some of that still remains. I do constantly need something to do and I still flit from one thing to another.

Anyway, so, my Mum said no. She used to play the Violin when she was at school and she hated it. There were, of course, other reasons as to why she wouldn’t allow me to try and learn the violin.

First and foremost, they’re very expensive instruments and we were a very poor family. Some people say they’re poor and yet they can afford a car and the petrol costs on top. We couldn’t. We’ve never had a car, and if by some miracle we did, we wouldn’t have had the petrol money for it. We were really properly council housing and walking everywhere kind of poor.

So an expensive instrument I could potentially lose interest in? Not the wisest of investments. Expensive Instrument that would require expensive lessons to learn, in order to keep interest and motivation to play said instrument? A slightly better investment but even more out of our budget.

Of course, the biggest and most important reason my Mum had for not letting me have a violin, learn to play a violin, try and get some sort of really cheap deal going so that I could have a future in playing the voilin somewhat professionally so that the initial costs might pay off one day?

My disability. Which is why I can’t take it up now, even though I’d really like to.

Holding a violin for most children is awkward, but eventually bodies adapt, muscles build and tiring arms would stop being a problem. Between my back, my ill-proportioned body and my inability to sit comfortably on your average chair, it would have been a struggle to keep hold of a violin long enough to build up some sort of tolerance.

The older that I’ve got, the worse my body’s got. Sad, but true.

But I just wish I’d have gotten a chance to just try. I wish my primary school had had a violin in the instrument trolley, in amongst the rainsticks, xylophones, bongos, tambourines, triangles, maracas and other instruments that I don’t know the name of.

I remember being given a variety of instruments that needed to go on my knees, except they needed two hands to be played but I didn’t have a good way to sit on a chair that would have stopped the instrument from slipping out of place. I refused to play any wind instruments cos I was a germophobe, and I never saw them wash the mouth pieces. I didn’t even drink out of the same cup as my brother at home, I wasn’t going to share a musical instrument that had been emerged in someone else’s mouth.

So that left me with instruments I had to shake, twirl, spin or flick. Not exactly a set of instruments that you’d find a demand of in the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.

And I listen to music today with violins in, in fact I go out of my way to buy violin-based music, and I’m just as mesmerised. And it takes me back to when I was seven and wanting a violin. I can’t help but feel cheated out of something.

At least I could play the guitar, had a shot of the drums and gave the keyboard a go. The Violin has always been out of my reach.

And of course people have turned around to me and said I should give the Violin a go anyway. I feel like these people are living in a dream-zone. I can’t spend £500 on a semi-decent instrument, a further £100 on what I’m led to believe would be a low-quality bow, and all the extra expenses of polishes, resins, cleaning materials, strings on top on a whim, to see how well, or how badly, I’d be able to cope in learning to try and play the violin.

The problem is this new polar opposite attitude some people have towards disabilities. It is the exact opposite situation to where we were all ignored and considered useless. No, this new attitude brings a blindness to disability in such a way it’s just as harmful, in the hands of the wrong people. So what if I have a back that collapsed and nerve damage down my right arm! Stephen Hawking has a form of Motor Neuron Disease and he’s still giving life a go!*

Yes, it’s all wonderful that people have faith in us disabled people these days to be on par with the rest of society, now that we have the Equal Opportunities Movement. There’s practically no good reason, in these people with these opinion’s minds, for anyone with a disability to not at least try.

Except sometimes disabilities do actually impose physical impossibilities and do actually hold us back in life, in some circumstances; and holding a violin well and truly comfortable enough to play one song probably is one of them. It would be a large waste of money, that quite frankly needs to go elsewhere, just to see.

And I’m out of any situation now that might land a free one in my lap for an hour, like a good school could have done. I could have even had a chance in high school had we been able to afford some sort of private music lessons. There were school-stock violins in the music cupboard, for people learning through the private music lessons but weren’t at an advanced stage enough to justify having their own (way-more-expensive-and-less-warped) instrument.

Ah, I’m feeling wistful. It’s all a shame, and it’s all very annoying. It would have been nice to try, that’s all.

 On the other hand, because I can’t bare to end this blog on a bad note (Oh no, was that a pun!?), maybe it is better to have never loved at all than to have loved and lost the knowledge and experience of holding a violin and actually playing it. Even badly. Like with my beloved Guitar.

*Something which has actually been said to me.

Am I Too Young to be a Fan of The Proclaimers?

Sunday 23 January, 2011

As I’ve said before, or at least inferred it, I don’t change over the years. I just take how I used to be and add to it as I go along. My life is one big collection of everything I’ve ever been in to.

One of these things are The Proclaimers. Charlie and Craig Reid. I can’t tell them apart, and I didn’t hear much of their music, but the music I did hear, I knew and I loved. Lots.

I was maybe twelve when I really knew 500 Miles. And whilst it wasn’t one of my “Oh My God – Head Buzzing!” songs, it was up there. It’s one of those songs where you’re either lame for knowing all the words to, or you’re really awesome, and I’ve been both.

The second song I got to know was, naturally, Letter from America. My dad would go on about the random ill-fitting rhyming of America with Canada. I disagreed, I thought it was done quite well. I didn’t even know there was a political meaning to it until three years ago!

The third and fourth songs come hand in hand because of the little story that accompanies it. I’m On My Way and Don’t Turn Out Like Your Mother. I don’t know whether I already knew of the songs or not, but I don’t think i’d have had any way of knowing about these songs if it weren’t for I’m On My Way being on the Shrek soundtrack. So I’m guessing it was the constant play on the radio that caught my attention. From there, I had to listen to it all the time and 500 Miles, and Letter from America altogether and I used the Yahoo music video service to watch it. It was never something to depend on but it was great for the purpose at the time. Sometimes the next video was something unrelated, sometimes it was related by sounds-like bands, sometimes it was another song by the same band that you’d already listened to.

One day when I was listening to I’m On My Way, the next track started with a very low voice saying “I’m a grown man, I’m over 21. I’ve got an ugly face but I have a lot of fun”. It wasn’t The Proclaimers, which was made very obvious when the voice cut out, there was a suspended chord for a few seconds to fill the air and then BAM, heavy death metal bursting into my earphones. I still to this day don’t really know what that was about, other than a heavy death metal cover of Don’t Turn Out Like Your Mother.

I didn’t think about it for a while, but I had to Google it eventually because those two lines about being ugly stuck with me. Low and behold, I found The Proclaimer’s did a song with those lyrics.

Recently, thanks to Spotify, I’m able to listen to any and all available songs by The Proclaimers whilst I save up the funds to buy all of their albums. The songs remind me of when I first listened to them, other times I listened to them, special times I listened to them, how I felt, how they cheered me up, where I was and why and how I came to listen to them.

They’re very underrated. They’re very political, which I didn’t even realise until a while ago when I read about it all. But you know what? Come rain or shine, these guys have music for all occasions. They’re perfect for post-midnight blues, too.

I would love to see these guys live. It would be a dream come true. And hopefully saying that won’t jinx them in any way, because the last time I said that about a band, they broke up a week later. (Sorry, The Calling!)

So, thank you, Charlie and Craig for existing and giving us all this amazing music. I may have been too young when you first released your biggest hits, but I’ve been on board for 10 years now. That’s got to count for something!

We Don’t Need No Education… ?

Saturday 8 January, 2011

It shouldn’t do, but it still surprises me when I realise how much government-funded associations fail as the go-to people in this country.
They want people to eat healthier, but they’ve hiked up the price of the healthier foods in shops, not sure the details behind that though. Wholesale prices have risen, so our local fruit and veg shops also have to hike up their prices, making them no contenders in competition against the super markets.

Unhealthy and more accessible foods remain the cheap alternatives.

They want more people to adopt healthier life styles, but they’ve got rid of most of the easy-access healthy lifestyle schemes throughout the whole country. That means those who were eligible for it, their target audience being the elderly and essentially the poor who can’t be full members of a full-time gym, can no longer take part. Kind of puts everybody back at square one…

Then there’s education. I don’t know what the government think they’re doing with all these academies when nobody wants them, and the ones that are already around have already proved themselves worthless. The education board are looking in to buying every kid a Kindle, so that there bags are lighter, yet they can’t pay for more resources, and some schools can’t even pay for up-to-date textbooks, or enough teachers to cover every subject.
And I remember being twelve. I remember being scared of breaking school property and ruining my text books, yet all the lads in my year flinging their bags around, kicking them under desks, dumping them down in the mud to play football in the rain. The education board thing it’s a good idea giving kids who can’t even keep their uniforms mark-free for a day expensive things like Kindles? Or even worse, iPads?

I’d like to not go into Education Transport because I know it’s not relevant to your average school goer, but it’s something that a lot of people Should know about. It’s important. When I was in school, I was an unfortunate victim of educational transport due to my disability. Don’t get me wrong, for the most part it was ok. Except I couldn’t stay after school for extra curriculum activities, and that’s where many friends are made and interests and hobbies are honed, and then when I got older, I missed most of my GCSE revision lessons due to them being after school and during holidays. It didn’t get so bad until the educational board swapped efficiency for cost-effective. Taxis and small mini-buses were swapped for massive mini-buses. I was late every day to college, I didn’t get back before 5:15 every night, and my social life never improved.

I’ve heard it’s gone even more down hill since then.

It’s obviously a case of the bigwigs at the top, once again, making all the major decisions which affects everybody else but them. They’re not the ones having to depend on the service, but i’m sure if they did it would be vastly improved. I’m sure they’d have something to complain about if they were told they’d just have to deal with being late for an important meeting which could mean the end of their career. I’m sure they wouldn’t like being told that the people behind the service they have no option but to depend on, are doing the best that they can do to assure they’re doing their best and would be surprised to hear anyone depending on the service are at risk of losing their job because they’re always late.

Change meeting and job to exam and any worthwhile education and you have pretty much the average experience of everyone I shared a mini-bus with.

The worst is the state of our libraries. I’m not sure whose behind it, but libraries are in danger because apparently, they’re not keeping up with todays trends. Let me tell you this, it’s not that they’re not keeping up with today’s trends, it’s that their not helping intergrate the latest trends with the old trends of using a library.

My local library has an online catalogue. I’m sure everyone’s local library does. But I can put in any top authors into the database and every search comes out “No results found”. Does this mean that the library doesn’t have any books by these authors, or does it mean that the database hasn’t been kept up-to-date? Your average potential library user probably has more important things to do than go to a library on a chance to see whether or not it has a book that every library should have, and probably chooses to pay out for a certainty at a book shop instead. People need to know there’s a reason they should go there, it’s not enough to say “Hey, we’re a library, you should assume we have what you need.”

I now find it completely pointless to struggle going to the library myself, due to not being able to take the time to find it and look around once i’m in there. There should be a Home Service for “the elderly and infirm”. Not only is this completely marketed to an O.A.P, which I find a little insulting, but also to get such services, you need to go for an assessment appointment at the nearest major library. I have history with said main library, but unfortunately, it’s back where I used to live and nowhere near where I live now.

If this is a service designed for the house-bound, how are they meant to go to a land far, far away to be assessed as eligable for such a service?

It’s a cruel irony. The social services and government is all a cruel irony.

Well, I suppose we are British after all. In some ways, it’s poetic justice. But god, I wish someone would, for one minute, think these things through and actually do something to help instead of creating these loop holes that allows them to refuse their own services to people who it’s targeted at.

When I was younger, so much younger than today…

Monday 22 November, 2010

When I was younger, I wanted to be a maths teacher. I loved maths because you could collect up all the numbers, and each number counted no matter how small it was, and you came to the answer. It was the simple concept that it was straight forward with just one answer that I loved. I could get my head around it… until the mathematics became too complex for me to count up using plastic blocks and simple equations.

No one ever told me that needing to use all the counting blocks in the classroom was wrong, that it was a sign of something wrong. The same way none of my teachers ever wondered why I needed to write down ALL of my sums, no matter how simple they were, and take up a whole page until I could get to my final answer. There would literally be a page of lists of numbers and sums as I would build up the answer.

Things got worse in high school when we no longer had counting blocks, my teacher didn’t have the patience to understand and would make me feel two inches small when I got the lowest score in mental arithmetic. I was in the lowest set for maths and I was still too thick for it. I would be berated for needing to keep track of all the numbers and sums and I’d be shouted at for wasting pages in my book when two whole pages were filled with maths that didn’t make sense. I tried to fix that by gluing two pages together and then I was shouted at again for wasting pages. This same teacher would even hover behind me whenever I got a new exorcise book, to make sure I didn’t mess up the first page. I had this bitch for three years and each lesson she brought me to near tears. On some Wednesdays, there were tears!

It took until I was 15 for someone to say “Dyscalculia”, which is basically the number version of Dyslexia. It’s still not widely known today. There’s probably loads of people who just thought they were too thick for maths who had it, maybe even some people got away with it and work in a maths-based job today.

Not me, though. When the maths got too hard, when the teachers didn’t ask or try to understand why I just didn’t understand the equations, that I worked them out in a unique and different way, I lost faith in maths. It was no longer my friend because even 0 wasn’t what I was led to believe. The number 1 was made up with fractions, a more complex equation is needed if you want to divide decimal points together and the speeds of trains passing each other became very important, for some reason. Even though I’m pretty sure there’s technology to figure that out for us…

I found a new friend in English and Media Analysis. They weren’t as good as maths. With English, it’s more in the reasons of why you think it’s possible rather than whether or not somethings possible, and whether there’s evidence to support your reason.

Seamus Heaney was a afraid of frogs, you say? What makes you think that?
Well, the poem were he compares frogspawn to a deadly blood virus was a give away

And media was very much the same.

The denotation is that Andrew Beckett and Joe Miller are standing at opposites sides of the office. The connotation of them standing in those positions is that Miller, who creates the distance in the first place, is uncomfortable with Beckett’s presence and is prejudice against gay people and HIV sufferers. I believe that the office is a symbol of a box…

And the further away that childhood dream of becoming a maths teacher went. It’s not the only one I never pursued though. I also gave up my dream of being a house builder, a footballer, an actress, a drummer in a band, a window cleaner, a nurse, an electrics specialist, a magazine article writer and many other things.

Some come again and go again, others I’ve not really given up on, just thought differently about. I’m 22 years old, a Twenty-something, and I still have no idea what I want to do with my life.

Some say that’s okay, and right now, I choose to believe them. And who knows, maybe when I’m 50 I’ll start again with maths and make that teacher dream of mine come true.

Or maybe I’ll become a flamenco dance teacher instead. Maybe anything’s possible.